Habeas Corpus: The Guantanamo Cases

One of our oldest human rights, habeas corpus safeguards individual freedom by preventing unlawful or arbitrary imprisonment. This documentary examines habeas corpus and the separation of powers in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks as the Supreme Court tried to strike a balance between the president’s duty to protect the nation and the constitutional protection of civil liberties in four major Guantanamo Bay cases: Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, Rasul v. Bush, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld and Boumediene v. Bush.

Closed captions available in English and Spanish.

  • Resource Type: Media, Video
  • Subject: History, Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The Constitutional Convention of 1787

In this unit, students will examine the roles that key American founders played in creating the Constitution, and the challenges they faced in the process. They will learn why many Americans in the 1780s believed that reforms to the Articles of Confederation were necessary, and the steps taken to authorize the 1787 Convention in Philadelphia. They will become familiar with the main issues that divided delegates at the Convention, particularly the questions of representation in Congress and the office of the presidency. Finally, they will see how a spirit of compromise, in the end, was necessary for the Convention to fulfill its task of improving the American political system.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Defining Classroom Citizenship

The founders understood that, in order to preserve their liberty and happiness, and that of future generations, the foundation of successful self-government was citizens who understood and applied certain virtues. They constructed the U.S. Constitution according to their study of the principles and virtues that were most necessary to sustain a free, prosperous, and orderly society. This lesson is ideal for the first day of school.

  • Resource Type: Essays, Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Citizenship
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The 19th Amendment: A Woman’s Right to Vote

Voting is the most basic right of a citizen and the most important right in a democracy. When you vote, you are choosing the people who will make the laws. For almost a century and a half of our nation’s history, women were barred from exercising this fundamental right. This is a film about their long, difficult struggle to win the right to vote. It’s about citizenship, the power of the vote, and why women had to change the Constitution with the 19th Amendment to get the vote.

The 14th Amendment and the Evolution of Title IX

Congress and the courts have applied the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause to many aspects of public life over the past 150 years. In this activity, students will explore the evolution of the 14th Amendment through the lens of Title IX, which prohibits institutions that receive federal funding from excluding students from participating in educational and athletic programs on the basis of sex. The Supreme Court’s first Title IX case, Grove City College v. Bell, also demonstrates how each of the three branches exercises its authority.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

The Role of the Judiciary

In this lesson, students learn about the judicial system, aka the judiciary. First, students read and discuss an article on the role, structure, and principles of the judiciary. Next, they participate in a Civil Conversation on the reading. In this structured discussion method, under the guidance of a facilitator (the teacher), participants are encouraged to engage intellectually with challenging materials.

  • Resource Type: Descriptive Text, Interactives, Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Crisis in Venezuela

The United States historically had strong diplomatic and economic relations with Venezuela. Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves and is the third largest source of imported oil for the U.S. For decades, Venezuela was a democratic state. The positive relationship between the U.S. and Venezuela changed in 1998. Venezuelans elected Hugo Chavez president that year. His political program was known as Chavismo.

  • Resource Type: Descriptive Text, Interactives, Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Voting, Elections, Politics
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Pathways to the Bench

U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank, of Minnesota, is featured in the latest installment of the Pathways to the Bench video series produced by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to inspire and inform the public about the human face of the federal judiciary. In the series, individual judges talk about the personal, character-building challenges that have prepared them to serve on the bench. In this brief video, Judge Frank says that adversity has made him a better person and a better jurist.

  • Resource Type: Video
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Birth of American Democracy: Discourse, Debate and Compromise

In this exploration of American democracy students will follow the path to representative government by analyzing the tradition of discourse, debate, and compromise from Jamestown to Williamsburg and Philadelphia and finally to Washington. Students will determine the importance of debate and compromise for the development of a government by and for the people and also identify strategies for making their voices heard in government today.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12