Part One: What government does
The Tennessee state capitol
What does the Tennessee government do?
The government pays for many of the services that we enjoy.
- It pays the salaries of public school teachers and police officers.
- It pays for state universities, parks, and the roads that you drive on.
- Sometimes local governments pay for the water that you drink and for someone to pick up your trash.
Part Two: The Other Constitution in Your Life
A copy of the Tennessee Constitution
Tell me more about Tennessee's government.
1) The U.S. Constitution explains the way the federal government is set up.
2) The Tennessee Constitution explains the way Tennessee's state government is set up.
3) The constitutions are the same in the following ways:
4) The constitutions are different in many ways, including:
- Both have a government with three branches -- The Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches.
- Both have a Legislative branch with two chambers -- a House and a Senate.
- Both are concerned about individual rights -- The Bill of Rights in the US Constitution and the Declaration of Rights in the Tennessee Constitution.
- The U.S. Constitution was written in 1783. The Tennessee Constitution was written in 1870, after the Civil War.
- The U.S. Constitution states that the President must be 35 years old and born in the USA. The Tennessee Constitution states that the Governor must be 30 years old and have lived in Tennessee for seven years.
- The U.S. Constitution states that if the President dies in office, the Vice-President becomes President. The Tennessee Constitution states that if the Governor dies, the Speaker of the House becomes the Governor.
Part Three: The Three Branches of the Government
Governor Bredesen signs a bill into law
PHOTO: Office of Gevernor Phil Bredesen
1) Tennessee Government has three branches.
- The Executive branch's head is the Governor. Currently, our governor is Phil Bredesen. This branch enforces the laws and runs everything that happens in the state from day-to-day.
- The Legislative branch is made up of the House and the Senate. They make the laws.
- The Judicial branch interprets the laws and operates the courts.
Tennessee History for Kids has produced TWO videos that go with this section. In "Making a Splash with the Governor," History Bill discovers that Governor Bredesen is a painter, Tennessee's state parks are best in the nation, and canoes aren't as easy to paddle as he thought. Click here to see it using Quicktime; here using Media Player; and here to see it on youtube.
And, in "Banging Down the Gavel," History Bill meets five of the most interesting people you'll ever see and finds that, in Tennessee, SIXTH GRADERS can suggest bills, too! Click here to see this video using Quicktime; here using Windows Media Player; and here using youtube.
A committee of the State Senate
2) Tennesseans, not the federal government, dictate Tennessee government.
3) Tennessee has a citizen-legislature. To serve in the House or Senate is a part time job.
Our New Tennessee History Words
salary: A salary is how much money a person receives for doing something.
enforce: Policemen enforce the law when they make sure people are following laws every day.
interpret: People who interpret things figure out exactly what they mean on a day-to-day basis.
This ends our 5th grade ESL study of Tennessee History and Civics.