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

Separation of Powers: Letter from President Eisenhower Document Analysis

In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown vs. Board of Education that segregated schools were “inherently unequal.” In 1957, Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., was ordered to desegregate. However, Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus ordered the Arkansas National Guard to prevent nine African American students from entering the school on Sept. 3. A U.S. District Court ruled against the use of the National Guard at the school. When the students returned to the school, they were met by a mob of 1,000 segregationists, and, police removed them for their own protection. President Dwight Eisenhower then ordered federal troops to Central High to protect the students. This conversation starter uses a letter from Eisenhower to Sen. John Stennis (D, Mississippi) on Oct. 7, 1957, in which the president explains the role of the executive branch. Find this lesson in the Separation of Powers module.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Rights at Risk in Wartime

The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, stunned the nation. As commander-in-chief, President George W. Bush responded quickly but soon all three branches of government would be embroiled in the struggle to balance national security with the protection of individual liberties amid a war on terror. This lesson plan is based on the Annenberg Classroom video “Habeas Corpus: The Guantanamo Cases.” The four cases are examples of how the Supreme Court, the president and Congress fought to balance national security and civil liberties during the war on terror. At the heart of each case was the constitutional right of habeas corpus, the right to have one’s detention or imprisonment reviewed in court.

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

Songs for Free Men and Women

How can songs—moving speech, set to rhythmic music—shape hearts and minds? What do America’s national songs mean, and what feelings does singing them inspire? “Songs for Free Men and Women” carefully examines our major national songs, both to understand their words and to discover what they contribute to making attached citizens. Includes discussion questions for the National Anthem, “God Bless America,” “This Land Is Your Land,” and more.

  • Resource Type: Primary Sources, Video
  • Subject: Citizenship
  • Grades: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights is on permanent display at the National Archives in Washington, DC. This original joint resolution of Congress proposed 12 amendments to the United States Constitution, but only 10 were ratified. Added to the Constitution in 1791 as the first 10 amendments, the Bill of Rights explicitly protected freedom of speech, of the press, of religion, and of assembly, among many other rights.

  • Resource Type: Primary Sources
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Teaching Six Big Ideas in the Constitution

This lesson engages students in a study of the Constitution to learn the significance of “Six Big Ideas” contained in it. Students analyze the text of the Constitution in a variety of ways, examine primary sources to identify their relationship to its central ideas, and debate the core constitutional principles as they relate to today’s political issues. (Duration: 45-minute segments, up to 4.5 hours.)

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources
  • Subject: Federal Government
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

National Identity and Why It Matters: A Lesson Plan

Why do people need national identity and attachment? Explore the meaning and significance of national identity in general and American identity in particular as editors Amy A. Kass and Leon R. Kass discuss Edward Everett Hale’s story, “A Man without a Country,” with Wilfred M. McClay (University of Oklahoma). Includes a discussion guide and model conversation.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Primary Sources, Video
  • Subject: Citizenship
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

James Madison Lesson 2: The Second National Bank—Powers Not Specified in the Constitution

In this lesson, students examine the First and Second National Banks and whether or not such a bank’s powers are constitutional or unconstitutional.

How should the Constitution be applied to situations not specified in the text? How can balance be achieved between the power of the states and that of the federal government? How can a balance of power be achieved among the three branches of the federal government? In this lesson, Madison’s words will help students understand the constitutional issues involved in some controversies that arose during Madison’s presidency.

  • Resource Type: Essays, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Legislative Branch/Congress
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Transforming Your Classroom with National History Day

National History Day motivates students to discover history by cultivating interest: students research a topic of their choice; developing research skills: students act as historians discovering how to uncover primary sources, build historical context and form historical interpretations; becoming experts on a research topic: presenting their research to teachers, students, and historians; achieving success.

  • Resource Type: Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: History
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12