Article V and the 27 Amendments – Module 15 of Constitution 101
With the Constitution, the Founding generation created the greatest charter of freedom in the history of the world. However, the Founding generation did not believe that it had a monopoly on constitutional wisdom. Therefore, the founders set out a formal amendment process that allowed later generations to revise our nation’s charter and “form a more perfect Union.” They wrote this process into Article V of the Constitution. Over time, the American people have used this amendment process to transform the Constitution by adding a Bill of Rights, abolishing slavery, promising freedom and equality, and extending the right to vote to women and African Americans. All told, we have ratified 27 constitutional amendments across American history. Learning objectives: Describe the reasons that the Founding generation included a formal process for amending the Constitution;
explain how the Constitution’s amendment process works, and why the founders made it so hard to amend the Constitution; identify the key periods of constitutional change in American history and outline factors that drive successful pushes to amend the Constitution; describe all 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
14th Amendment: Battles for Freedom and Equality – Module 14 in Constitution 101
The 14th Amendment wrote the Declaration of Independence’s promise of freedom and equality into the Constitution. Ratified after the Civil War, this amendment transformed the Constitution forever and is at the core of a period that many scholars refer to as our nation’s “Second Founding.” Even so, the 14th Amendment remains the focus of many of today’s most important constitutional debates (and Supreme Court cases). In many ways, the history of the modern Supreme Court is largely a history of modern-day battles over the 14th Amendment’s meaning. So many of the constitutional cases that Americans care about today turn on the 14th Amendment. Learning objectives: Explain why the 14th Amendment was added to the Constitution; identify the core principles in the 14th Amendment’s clauses; summarize how the Supreme Court has interpreted the meaning of the 14th Amendment; evaluate the effect of the 14th Amendment on liberty and equality.
Voting Rights in America – Module 13 in Constitution 101
The original Constitution did not specifically protect the right to vote—leaving the issue largely to the states. For much of American history, this right has often been granted to some, but denied to others; however, through a series of amendments to the Constitution, the right to vote has expanded over time. These amendments have protected the voting rights of new groups, including by banning discrimination at the ballot box based on race (15th Amendment) and sex (19th Amendment). They also granted Congress new power to enforce these constitutional guarantees, which Congress has used to pass landmark statutes like the Voting Rights Act of 1965. While state governments continue to play a central role in elections today, these new amendments carved out a new—and important—role for the national government in this important area.
The Fourth Amendment: Module 11 of Constitution 101
The Fourth Amendment protects us from unreasonable search and seizures of our person, our house, our papers, and our effects. In many cases, this amendment governs our interactions with the police. Before the government — including police officers — can search your home or seize your property, it needs a good reason. This is the big idea behind the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement. The government needs particularized suspicion — a reason that’s specific to each suspect — before it can get a warrant. Broadly speaking, our Constitution says that the police should only be able to invade a person’s rights to privacy, property, or liberty if they have a specific reason to think that the suspect has done something wrong.
The First Amendment: Module 10 of Constitution 101
The First Amendment protects some of our most cherished rights, including religious liberty, free speech, a free press, the right to assemble, and the right to petition our government for a redress of grievances. Together, these essential rights are connected to the freedom of conscience—protecting our ability to think as we will and speak as we think. As we examine the First Amendment’s text and history, we will explore debates over the First Amendment’s five freedoms, analyze landmark Supreme Court cases, and examine how the First Amendment has been used by groups of all perspectives to promote their vision of a more perfect Union.
The Judicial System and Current Cases – Module 9 of Constitution 101
Article III of the Constitution establishes the judicial branch of the national government, which is responsible for interpreting the laws. At the highest level, the judicial branch is led by the U.S. Supreme Court, which consists of nine Justices. In the federal system, the lower courts consist of the district courts and the courts of appeals. Federal courts—including the Supreme Court—exercise the power of judicial review. This power gives courts the authority to rule on the constitutionality of laws passed (and actions taken) by the elected branches. The Constitution also promotes the principle of judicial independence—granting federal judges life tenure (meaning that they serve until they die, resign, or are impeached and removed from office). This module will examine the judicial branch and its powers.
Columbus/Indigenous Peoples’ Day
In 2021, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, first celebrated in California in 1992, was proclaimed by the President as a federal holiday to be observed on the same day as Columbus Day, which is established by Congress. Explore the day from many angles through primary source documents, guided readings and essays, videos, and lesson plans.
Separation of Powers and Federalism – Module 6 of Constitution 101
When crafting the Constitution, one of the central concerns of the Founding generation was how best to control government power. With the new Constitution, the Framers looked to strike an important balance—creating a new national government that was more powerful than the one that came before it while still protecting the American people’s most cherished liberties. They settled on a national government with defined but limited powers. Instead of placing authority in the hands of a single person (like a king), a small group of people (like an aristocracy), or even the whole people (like a direct democracy), the Framers divided power in two ways. At the national level, the Framers divided power between the three branches of government—the legislative branch, the executive branch and the judicial branch. This process of dividing power between different branches of government is called the separation of powers. From there, the Framers further divided power between the national government and the states under a system known as federalism. In this module, students will explore the key functions of the different parts of government and the role that the Constitution plays in controlling government power.
Landmark Supreme Court Case Tinker v Des Moines (1969)
After wearing black armbands to school in protest of the Vietnam War, three students – two of them siblings – were suspended by the Des Moines Independent Community School District for disrupting learning. The parents of the children sued the school for violating the children’s rights to free speech. The landmark Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Districtdetermined it was a First Amendment violation for public schools to punish students for expressing themselves in certain circumstances. This lesson uses expert analysis, perspectives from the Tinkers, oral arguments and archival video to explore the case and the legacy of the ruling.
Midterm Election Series
Civics 101 Podcast has partnered with Retro Report to create a series to prepare students and educators for the 2022 midterm elections. The series includes six podcasts and links to associated resources, as well as links to videos and lesson plans from Retro Report on historic midterms (1966 and 1994) in addition to activities on gerrymandering, realignment, everything you could possibly want that is midterm-related. Here is a link to Retro Report’s complete midterm collection.
These podcasts and videos can be used in class, on a walk, or at home. Each podcast comes with a transcript and graphic organizer for students to write on while listening.