Distance Learning: Civics for Civic Engagement in the Federal Courts

Distance learning activities become civics for civic engagement when federal judges bring the rule of law, separation of powers, judicial independence, and jury service into students’ daily life. Student voice is incorporated into every activity. Teachers and students can explore the pillars of literacy: rule of law, separation of powers, and judicial independence. With the guidance of federal judges and attorney volunteers in virtual court hearings, students learn and practice civil discourse skills as the foundation of effective dispute resolution in the law and in life.

The Rule of Law in Your Life

Rule of law is a principle under which all persons, institutions, and entities are accountable to laws that are: publicly promulgated, equally enforced, independently adjudicated, and consistent with international human rights principles. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has created this resource to help your students understand rule of law with an overview of the topic; opening discussion questions; relevant landmark case summaries; and discussion questions to check for understanding. In a Court Shorts video, nine federal judges explain how fair and consistent adherence to the law protects our rights and well-being in everyday situations.

Grades 8, 9-12
Foundations of Democracy
Lesson Plans

Civics in Real Life: Sedition

Protest has a long history in the United States, especially in the U.S. Capital. Citizens have taken to the streets to express their disagreements with the actions or policies of the government. Whether it is advocating for civil rights, expressing opposition to abortion rights, or demonstrating support or opposition to a political candidate, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees individuals the right to free speech, as well as the rights to peaceable assembly and to petition the government. Together, these add up to peaceful protest. But there may be times where protest becomes unlawful and slips over the line into sedition.
Other relevant Civics in Real Life lessons: Inching Toward Inauguation; Presidential Transition; Electoral College; Consent of the Governed. Grades 6-12. Florida Joint Center for Citizenship.

Grades 7-12
Foundations of Democracy
Lesson Plans

Freedom of Assembly: The Right to Protest

This lesson will focus on freedom of assembly, as found in the First Amendment. Students will consider the importance of the right to assemble and protest by analyzing cases where First Amendment rights were in question. Using the case National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie, students will consider if the government is ever allowed to control the ability to express ideas in public because viewpoints are controversial, offensive, or painful. Students will use primary sources and Supreme Court cases to consider whether the courts made the correct decision in the National Socialist Party v. Skokie case. Students will be able to form an opinion on the essential question: Is the government ever justified to restrict the freedom to assemble?

Freedom of Assembly: National Socialist Party v. Skokie

This film explores the First Amendment right of the “people peaceably to assemble” through the lens of the U.S. Supreme Court case National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie. The legal fight between neo-Nazis and Holocaust survivors over a planned march in a predominantly Jewish community led to a ruling that said the neo-Nazis could not be banned from marching peacefully because of the content of their message.

Deliberation Materials: Is the United States’ Democracy Healthy?

Is the United States’ democracy healthy? This activity includes a deliberation reading and glossary, as well as accompanying handouts to give students additional information on the topic and to guide them through the deliberation process from planning to reflection. Deliberation teaches people how to discuss controversial issues by carefully considering multiple perspectives and searching for consensus. In preparation for deliberations, all participants read common, balanced background information on the issue. During the discourse, they offer arguments for each position on a contested public issue, first drawing from the text and then bringing in their own experiences.

Grades 10, 11, 12
Foundations of Democracy
Modules (Teaching Unit)