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.

Hispanic Heritage Month Activities & Resources

Prek-12 Lessons for Hispanic Heritage Month.

Each year, from September 15 to October 15, the United States observes Hispanic Heritage Month. During the month-long celebration, which begins on the anniversary of the independence of many Latin American countries, we commemorate the histories, cultures and contributions of Hispanic American citizens. Share My Lesson has lesson plans, activities, and classroom resources to help educators celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in their schools.

Teen Curfew

In this lesson, students will consider a proposed teen curfew law in a mock city council session. The class is divided into groups; one group is the city council, and the others represent the interests of groups of citizens – merchants association, county school board, etc. This exercise helps show students how citizens can be involved in policy change and decision making.

Citizens United v. FEC (2010)

Does a law that limits the ability of corporations and labor unions to spend their own money to advocate the election or defeat of a candidate violate the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech? The Supreme Court has held that donations and campaign spending are forms of speech.

Grades 7-12
Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
Primary Sources

The Sedition Act: Certain Crimes Against the United States

The Sedition Act of 1798 passed during John Adam’s administration by the Federalist Party touched off a lively debate about the right of free speech. It also presented an early test case to the citizens and government of the United States. In times of war or imminent danger, how do you balance the need for security with the rights of individuals? How can partisan politics affect the process of shaping security policies?

Creating Effective Citizens/Social Studies in Action Library

Watch lesson plans in the video, “Creating Effective Citizens,” from the Social Studies in Action Library, that teach students how to become active and effective citizens. Students participate in role-play and simulations that model civic action, discuss controversial laws about gender discrimination and individual rights, explore what it means to be a global citizen within a democracy, and engage students in local and national issues.

Citizenship and the U.S. Constitution

In this lesson students will examine the concept of “citizen” from a definitional perspective of what a citizen is and from the perspective of how citizenship is conferred in the United States. Students will discuss the rights and responsibilities of citizens and non-citizens and review the changing history of citizenship from colonial times to the present.

The Reconstruction Amendments: Official Documents as Social History

The Fourteenth Amendment was the most important constitutional change in the nation’s history since the Bill of Rights. Its heart was the first section, which declared all persons born or naturalized in the United States (except Indians) to be both national and state citizens, and which prohibited the states from abridging their “privileges and immunities,” depriving any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, or denying them “equal protection of the laws.”

Landmark Supreme Court Cases – Freedom of Speech: Commercial

From the first days of American history until today, the Supreme Court has been pivotal in interpreting the Constitution and shaping America’s constitutional republic. Read summaries of the majority ruling in landmark Supreme Court cases that have had an impact on our rights as citizens.

Independence Day Lesson Plans & Resources

On July 4 each year, the United States celebrates Independence Day. This day commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, in which citizens of the thirteen American colonies announced their break from the British Empire and their intention to form a new nation: the United States of America. This Share My Lesson collection provides educators with free preK-12 lesson plans, activities, and materials to use to teach their students about Independence Day.