New York Times v. United States, better known as the “Pentagon Papers” case, was a decision expanding freedom of the press and limits on the government’s power to interrupt that freedom. President Richard Nixon used his executive authority to prevent the New York Times from publishing top secret documents pertaining to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. In a 6-3 decision, the Court ruled that the President’s attempt to prevent the publication was a violation of First Amendment protections for press freedom. This lesson has students explore the background of the New York Times v. United States, the arguments made during the case and its legacy.
With the Constitution, the Founding generation created the greatest charter of freedom in the history of the world. However, the Founding generation did not believe that it had a monopoly on constitutional wisdom. Therefore, the founders set out a formal amendment process that allowed later generations to revise our nation’s charter and “form a more perfect Union.” They wrote this process into Article V of the Constitution. Over time, the American people have used this amendment process to transform the Constitution by adding a Bill of Rights, abolishing slavery, promising freedom and equality, and extending the right to vote to women and African Americans. All told, we have ratified 27 constitutional amendments across American history. Learning objectives: Describe the reasons that the Founding generation included a formal process for amending the Constitution;
explain how the Constitution’s amendment process works, and why the founders made it so hard to amend the Constitution; identify the key periods of constitutional change in American history and outline factors that drive successful pushes to amend the Constitution; describe all 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
George Washington and the Pursuit of Religious Freedom is based on a 15-minute film that covers religion in early America, the defeat of the British Empire, and the steps leading up to the passing of the Bill of Rights in 1791. Accompanying resources, such as an interactive map and an interactive timeline investigate the history of religion in early America, Washington’s interactions with various religious groups, and his role in securing religious freedom. Teacher resources include graphic organizers, vocabulary sheets, and additional information to guide inquiry.
After wearing black armbands to school in protest of the Vietnam War, three students – two of them siblings – were suspended by the Des Moines Independent Community School District for disrupting learning. The parents of the children sued the school for violating the children’s rights to free speech. The landmark Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Districtdetermined it was a First Amendment violation for public schools to punish students for expressing themselves in certain circumstances. This lesson uses expert analysis, perspectives from the Tinkers, oral arguments and archival video to explore the case and the legacy of the ruling.
Deliberations over the role of religion in public life are as old as the United States itself – and, of course, a significant part of the causation of there being a United States at all! In numerous cases, the Supreme Court has examined the question of if and how religion can be integrated into public schools and established parameters for that inclusion. One of those landmark decisions was the 1962 case of Engel v. Vitale, involving a challenge to the daily formal recitation of the “Regents Prayer” by New York schoolchildren.
The 1st Amendment to the Constitution provides for freedoms: freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition. This lesson has students examine the concepts of these freedoms through a variety of perspectives and explore current examples through video-based resources. This lesson works well in classes with one-to-one devices or could be adapted to fit a flipped classroom.
Constitution 101 is a 15-unit asynchronous, semester-long curriculum that provides students with a basic understanding of the Constitution’s text, history, structure, and caselaw. Drawing on primary source documents from our new, curated online Founders’ Library—containing over 170 historical texts and over 70 landmark Supreme Court cases selected by leading experts of different perspectives—students will study the historical and philosophical foundations of America’s founding principles from a range of diverse voices The curriculum guides students to think like constitutional lawyers—cultivating the skills necessary to analyze all sides of constitutional questions. Each module includes detailed materials for classroom educators, as well as opportunities for guided discovery and practice and tools to check for understanding.
The First Amendment’s right to free speech is one of our most important rights as citizens. But what does freedom of speech mean for students in public schools? How do you balance a school’s need for order with a student’s right to free expression? This film explores the evolution of student free speech rights through Supreme Court cases, from Tinker v. Des Moines to Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L., the case of the Snapchatting cheerleader.
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.
In this lesson, students explore the scope and limits of the establishment clause of the First Amendment. First, students read and discuss an article on the constitutional issue of student-led prayer at public school events. Next, they role-play Supreme Court justices and attorneys deciding this issue. Finally, in a whole-class discussion, they debrief their own findings and compare them with those of the Supreme Court in the case of Santa Fe Independent School District v. Jane Doe et al.