The Supremacy Clause

Tension between the states and the federal government has been a constant throughout U.S. history. This video explores the supremacy clause in Article VI of the Constitution and key moments in the power struggle, including the landmark case McCulloch v. Maryland. In McCulloch, Chief Justice John Marshall wrote that the supremacy clause unequivocally states that the “Constitution, and the Laws of the United States … shall be the supreme Law of the Land.”

  • Resource Type: Video
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Jury Service: Our Duty and Privilege as Citizens

In America, the responsibility to protect individual rights and promote the common good ultimately rests with its citizens, not the government. When citizens participate in thoughtful and responsible ways, the welfare of our constitutional democracy is ensured. While most civic participation is voluntary, the call to serve on a jury is not. It comes as an order by the court.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Citizenship, Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Freedom of Speech: Finding the Limits

As part of the Bill of Rights, freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Constitution, but it is not defined by it. That task is left up to the people through a representative government that makes the laws and a judicial system that interprets and applies the laws to resolve disputes. In this lesson, based […]

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

Equal Justice Under Law

In its first constitutional challenge to the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to hear a case brought by a Chinese immigrant, not an American citizen. Yick Wo believed city ordinances had been unfairly applied to him, so he challenged their constitutionality under the equal protection clause, and took his case all the way to the Supreme Court.

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

Judicial Independence: Essential, Limited, Controversial

In a constitutional system of government, the role of the judiciary is essential for maintaining the balance of power, protecting individual rights, upholding the rule of law, interpreting the Constitution, and ensuring equal justice for all. In this lesson, students learn about the role of an independent judiciary in the United States.

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

When National Security Trumps Individual Rights

On December 18, 1944, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down one of its most controversial decisions when it upheld the government’s decision to intern all persons of Japanese ancestry (both alien and nonalien) on the grounds of national security. Over two-thirds of the Japanese in America were citizens and the internment took away their constitutional rights. In this lesson, students evaluate the consequences of past events and decisions related to the Supreme Court case Korematsu v. United States (1944). They consider the challenges involved when trying to balance civil liberties and national security during threatening times and reflect on the lessons learned about civil liberties from the justices in the Korematsu case.

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

Actions That Changed the Law

In 1998, when Lilly Ledbetter filed her complaint of wage discrimination against the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, her goal was to get equal pay for equal work because that was the law. She had no idea that her decision would eventually involve all three branches of government and result in a law with her name on it – the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Federal Government
  • Grades: 10, 11, 12

Making Our Fourth Amendment Right Real

This lesson plan is based on the Annenberg Classroom video “Search and Seizure: Mapp v. Ohio,” which explores the landmark search-and-seizure case that makes state governments also responsible for protecting our Fourth Amendment right. With the exclusionary rule, this right becomes real for all of us.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Your Right to Remain Silent: Miranda v. Arizona

In 1966, the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in Miranda v. Arizona dramatically changed criminal procedures. The Court linked the Fifth Amendment’s privilege against self-incrimination to the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of a right to counsel and applied both to protect a suspect’s rights from arrest through trial. This lesson plan is based on the Annenberg Classroom video “The Right to Remain Silent: Miranda v. Arizona.”

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12