THE CONSTITUTION REVISION PROCESS IN FLORIDA
A Lesson Plan
We are dealing with a constitutional democracy
in which sovereignty resides in the people. It is their constitution...
They have a right to change, abrogate or modify it in any manner
they see fit...
- Glenn Terrell
Former Florida Supreme Court Justice
Purpose: The 1968 Florida
Constitution as ratified required a Constitution Revision Commission
to make suggestions for change (constitutional revision) after
ten years and again every twenty years. The first revision commission
did its work in 1978, now the next Constitution Revision Commission
will soon commence its work. This instructional unit teaches the
process to be followed by the Commission. Students will simulate
the process and work of the Commission -- reporting their suggestions.
Students also learn that governmental institutions need review
Overview: The flow of
this instructional unit is as outlined below:
- Students study the Florida Constitution to identify areas of
special interest or concern to them or to teams of students (hard
copies of the Florida Constitution may be obtained from Sandra B. Mortham, Secretary of State,
The State of Florida, The Capitol, Tallahassee, FL 32399 or the documentary history is
- Inquiring into areas of needed constitutional revision, teams
of students conduct interviews with significant adults in their
lives (e.g., parents, guardians, relatives, neighbors) and community
leaders, recording their ideas on constitutional revision. While
students might use personal interviews in teams, they might also
use e-mail interviews and telephone interviews arranged in advance
with community leaders;
- Students in the class role play the Florida Constitution Revision
Commission and conduct hearings. They might invite other classes
studying the Florida Constitution to appear at the hearing and
deliver suggestions, students might also perform at a Parents/Teachers
Organization meeting wherein parents and teachers appear before
the "Commission" or they might seek invitations to community
groups to collect input (Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, school board,
Phi Delta Kappa, etc.);
- The students take this information, and research areas of special
interest or concern and prepare written reports, revision by revision,
to be submitted to the actual Florida Constitution Revision Commission.
Goals: Students will:
- Understand the process to be followed by the Constitution Revision
Commission, its purposes and goals;
- Learn that governmental institutions need review and renewal
- Learn how to research constitutional issues and provide constructive
input into the revision process;
- Recognize the benefits/drawbacks of open participation in the
revision process; and
- Learn the differences between our state and federal constitutions.
The 1997 Constitution Revision Commission has a powerful mandate
to review the Florida Constitution and to recommend changes. The
Florida Constitution is the basic framework for our state government
and changes to the Constitution have ramifications in all
of our lives. This exercise is sought to highlight the constitution
revision process, to identify compelling and current issues affecting
the state, and to offer an opportunity for a class to simulate
the revision process. The success of this project is measured
solely by the ability to educate students on the process and to
act as a catalyst for those students to participate in the revision
process and to ultimately vote on any proposed amendments that
would be placed on the ballot in November 1998. The November 1998
election represents the first election for many high school seniors
and this project serves as a great opportunity to start those
students off to a long history of civic participation.
- Obtain copies of the Florida Constitution from the Secretary of State,
The Capitol, Tallahassee, FL 32399, (904) 488-3680.
- Use handout 'A' to
initiate the study of the Constitution. Divide the class into
two teams, one focused upon each of the two questions. Have them
develop answers and share them within the group and then with
the other team for reaction, fresh ideas, and revision. Each team
will prepare a final revised version to be shared immediately
for reaction by outside experts in person, by e-mail, or by postal
mail. Experts might include local attorneys, judges, political
leaders, and college teachers of law or politics.
- Students then continue their study of the Florida Constitution,
focused upon what they think needs changing. Students might begin
forming teams of twos and threes about special interest areas
of the Constitution or special reform areas. The class should
develop a list of their initial thoughts on needed changes and
the reasons for those changes.
- Use student handout 'B' to
reflect upon Florida's constitutional history, and why Floridians
changed their constitutions many times since the first Constitution of 1838,
written in St. Joseph, Florida (Gulf County) for the application
for Statehood to Congress. What changes were made in the past?
Can students hypothesize about why these changes were made? Relate
to their initial thoughts on change in item #3 above.
- Use student handout 'C' to
reflect upon the processes for constitutional revision in Florida.
Read that portion of their copies of the Florida Constitution.
Then, focus student attention on the forthcoming Constitution
Revision Commission. Who serves? Who selects? Why? How democratic
is the process? What makes it democratic? How could it be more
democratic? Do a Time line for this revision process...appointing
the Commission, Commission work....submitting proposed revisions....public
ballot on the individual revision suggestions (or new Constitution!),
etc. Visit the Florida Constitution Revision Commission Website for
- The class begins to conduct interviews in person (by teams
of two or three), by e-mail or telephone with significant adults
-- parents, family relatives, community leaders, and others, on
the central question: What change is needed in Florida's Constitution?
Students will report to the class (oral and written) on their
interviews. Students should attend to Why? (reasons) for
the suggested changes from their interviewees.
- The class then commences its role play as the Constitution
Revision Commission and holds public hearings. Other classes in
the school studying the Constitution may appear before the Commission.
Community leaders might be invited to appear. The Commission might
conduct a hearing before a school board meeting or a P.T.O. program,
or at a Lion's, Rotary, or other community organization. Students
will record suggestions presented with the reasoning behind those
suggestions. Stress the reasoning.
- Now, students take this information and begin to shape their
reports to the real Florida Constitution Revision Commission!
They may work in teams of two or three to do research, writing
and editing to get clear, concise statements for each proposed
a. Proposed constitutional addition or deletion.
b. Cite what the Constitution says/provides now (if anything).
c. Cite the reasons supporting your proposed change. This should
be the longest section of your statement.
Your team will write one statement, following the format above,
for each proposed change.
- If the real Commission holds a hearing in your community the
class might appear to present its proposed revisions. If not,
you might hold a community ceremony to submit the class's proposals
to the Commission through the school superintendent, the school
board, or the county commission. Ask a local legislator to
deliver the proposed revisions to the Commission! Hold a ceremony
and invite a Constitution Revision Commission member to attend.
The idea here is to have an event significant as a culminating
experience for students who have worked hard and performed well
on this unit!
Handout A: First Things First!
Handout B: Florida's Constitutional History
Handout C: Different Methods to Amend Florida's Constitution
Handout D: Florida Constitution Revision Commission
Handout E: Basic Purposes of a State Constitution