Causes of the American Revolution

This short video examines the Boston Tea Party of 1773 as the critical event which transformed political discussion about British imperial authority into an active source of controversy. By the early 1770’s, British and Americans thought differently about the extent of Parliament’s power to legislate for the American colonies. Professor Jack Rakove notes that British punishment of Massachusetts for its defiance of the Tea Act precluded a peaceful resolution of the political controversy.

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

Defining Marriage

This unit gives an overview of the legal history of marriage in the United States. It presents some of the privileges, benefits, and obligations that go along with getting married. It explains the current controversy about same-sex marriage. And it provides a model for discussion, called “structured academic controversy,” for exploring the facts, arguments, and options surrounding these issues.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Comprehensive Sex Education

This lesson discusses whether Illinois should pass a law that requires all public schools to provide comprehensive sex education in grades 6-12. In other words, should schools be required to teach students about both abstinence and contraceptives as possible prevention strategies for unintended teen pregnancy and STIs? Students will consider arguments supporting and opposing a comprehensive sex education law by deliberating the question using Structured Academic Controversy (SAC).

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

Detaining U.S. Citizens as Enemy Combatants

This unit gives an overview of some of the issues relating to enemy combatants. It reviews some of the powers of Presidents during wartime, the rights of citizens here in the United States, and the ways the U.S. Supreme Court has tried to balance individual freedoms with national defense. And it presents a discussion model called “structured academic controversy” for exploring the facts, arguments, and options surrounding these issues.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?

Students are guided through a careful reading of Frederick Douglass’ greatest speech in which he both praises the founders and their principles, yet condemns the continued existence of slavery. The Constitution is presented as a “glorious liberty document” which, if properly interpreted, is completely anti-slavery. Douglass delivered this speech on July 5, 1852 at the height of the controversy over the Fugitive Slave law. The speech is generally considered his greatest and one of the greatest speeches of the 19th century. Before you read the speech you can follow links to learn more about Douglass’s life and the evolution of his thought in this period.

  • Resource Type: Essays, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Citizenship
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

The Fugitive Slave Clause and the Constitution

This short video reviews the controversy over a fugitive slave clause. Northern states were opposed to including a fugitive slave clause in the Constitution. Professor John Kaminski tell the story of Quock Walker, an escaped slave, who was not returned to his owner in 1781 because a Massachusetts Supreme Court Justice ruled that slavery was unconstitutional based upon the MA Constitution. With the inclusion of a fugitive slave clause in the US Constitution, MA was no longer an asylum state.

  • Resource Type: Video
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 10, 11, 12