Lesson: I vs. We in History & Politics

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Lesson Objective

Students understand how individualist and collectivist ideas have influence history, such as through Marx and Locke, and influence current politics, such as the Libertarian Party and the Green Party.

Lesson Plan


Computer with internet access

Attached comics on Locke and Marx

Attached Marx vs. Locke organizer



Social Studies 12.10 Students formulate questions about and defend their analyses of tensions within our constitutional democracy and the importance of maintaining a balance between the following concepts: majority rule and individual rights; liberty and equality; state and national authority in a federal system; civil disobedience and the rule of law; freedom of the press and the right to a fair trial; the relationship of religion and government.

            12.9.1. Explain how the different philosophies and structures of feudalism, mercantilism, socialism, fascism, communism, monarchies, parliamentary systems, and constitutional liberal democracies influence economic policies, social welfare policies, and human rights practices.


English Language Arts 11-12RC2.6 Critique the power, validity, and truthfulness of arguments set forth in public documents; their appeal to both friendly and hostile audiences; and the extent to which the arguments anticipate and address reader concerns and counterclaims (e.g., appeal to reason, to authority, to pathos and emotion).


Anticipatory Set:

Display the attached political spectrum and ask students which political groups they have heard of, and whether they know which groups are more individualist or more collectivist. Ask if they can think of important politicians in any of these groups.



We are going to talk about two very famous political philosophers who fit more or less into the categories of individualist and collectivist.


Distribute the attached idea frame and cartoon pages. Read the sections on John Locke with students and help them isolate main ideas and relate them to a form of individualism. Connect these to the influence of Locke on the American constitution.


Read the sections on Marx with students and help them isolate main ideas and relate them to a form of collectivism. Connect these to the influence of Marx on socialist and communist governments. (Socialism is the better-surviving embodiment of collectivism, and is not as clouded by particular historical events as is communism, so it makes for better explaining.)


Encourage students to look at each main idea and write their own preference of philosophies.


Guided Practice

As you watch each politician’s speech, pause and rewind to help students identify main ideas. Chart the main points on the board. Discuss with students whether this politician is individualist or collectivist, and to what extent.

Ron Paul: Start at 2:12   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G00Sq3xaE1g

Ralph Nader:




Guide students in discussing/debating the merits of the two idea systems.



Independent Practice:

Each student or pair of students decides which philosophy they most support. They outline their reasons, and what good results will come if everyone starts believing in their philosophy. They plan their “selling points,” which they will then make into an advertisement for either individualism or collectivism. They may refer to history to argue for or against a philosophy, and they may use utopian imagination to spell out what they think will become of the world. They may even declare new “rules” or rights, as if they are writing a new doctrine. Encourage them to come up with the strongest, most convincing arguments they can that can be shown in one scene or one short video or sound recording.



Check in with each student or pair and help them whittle down their ideas, and suggest counterarguments they should anticipate.




Lesson Resources



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