Rule of law is a founding principle of the United States and a bedrock of democracy. It ensures that no one is above the law, that laws are publicly and widely known, that laws apply equally to all and are equally enforced, and that disputes are settled by an independent judiciary. This textbook definition is in contrast with many Americans’ lived experiences. For some people in the United States, particularly the most marginalized, rule of law has always been in crisis. Though the term “rule of law” may rarely be mentioned in state standards, its concepts are embedded in many social studies courses. Fundamental rights, limiting and balancing government power, and an open and transparent government are just a few of these concepts. These Street Law-designed lessons and resources are designed for flexibility and ease of use. The seven core lessons have been designed with middle and high school social studies teachers in mind, for courses ranging from U.S. history to civics and law to global studies. The eight lessons are: Introduction to Rule of Law; Controlling Corruption and Abuse of Power; Open and Transparent Government; Fair and Effective Court System; Fundamental Rights; Peace and Stability; Limiting and Balancing Government Power; and the Culminating Activity: Addressing a Rule of Law Change in My Community.
Charles Francis, president of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., talks about the life of Lilli Vincenz and her contributions to the gay rights movement.
Responding to questions from Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson discusses the Fourth Amendment’s provisions for privacy and for unreasonable searches and seizures during her confirmation hearing to be a Supreme Court justice.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) explains the foundation of this case, which is based on the removal of books that were deemed objectionable from public school libraries in a New York State town. He goes on to discuss the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, which sided with the students.
Brookings Institution Governance Studies Senior Fellow Molly Reynolds talks about the Electoral Count Act of 1887, the current law for how electoral votes get counted after a presidential election. She explains reform efforts and the role of the vice president of the U.S. in the electoral count.
Former Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and disability rights activist Judy Heumann talk about the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which Harkin authored and co-sponsored, and the legislation’s impact on lives of Americans with disabilities, the small-business community, and education.
Doris Meissner, former commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, talks about the creation of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, reactions to the passage of this act, and some of the successes and challenges of the act.
Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute and Carolyn Heinrich, a professor at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, discuss the 2002 No Child Left Behind law, including what was included in the legislation, the impact, and legacy of the act.
In this lesson, students will hear from a primary source, Ruby Bridges, as she spoke with elementary school students about her experiences as the first black student in an all-white school in New Orleans in 1960.
Who should be responsible for determining the content and materials that are included in school curricula? In this lesson, students will hear testimony from elected officials, people in the education community as well as a trailblazer in the Civil Rights Movement as they offer their perspectives on issues that should be addressed in educational settings as well as student access to materials such as books.