Rule of law is a founding principle of the United States and a bedrock of democracy. It ensures that no one is above the law, that laws are publicly and widely known, that laws apply equally to all and are equally enforced, and that disputes are settled by an independent judiciary. This textbook definition is in contrast with many Americans’ lived experiences. For some people in the United States, particularly the most marginalized, rule of law has always been in crisis. Though the term “rule of law” may rarely be mentioned in state standards, its concepts are embedded in many social studies courses. Fundamental rights, limiting and balancing government power, and an open and transparent government are just a few of these concepts. These Street Law-designed lessons and resources are designed for flexibility and ease of use. The seven core lessons have been designed with middle and high school social studies teachers in mind, for courses ranging from U.S. history to civics and law to global studies. The eight lessons are: Introduction to Rule of Law; Controlling Corruption and Abuse of Power; Open and Transparent Government; Fair and Effective Court System; Fundamental Rights; Peace and Stability; Limiting and Balancing Government Power; and the Culminating Activity: Addressing a Rule of Law Change in My Community.
Bell Ringer: Landmark Legislation: Americans with Disabilities Act
Former Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and disability rights activist Judy Heumann talk about the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which Harkin authored and co-sponsored, and the legislation’s impact on lives of Americans with disabilities, the small-business community, and education.
Bell Ringer: Landmark Legislation: Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986
Doris Meissner, former commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, talks about the creation of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, reactions to the passage of this act, and some of the successes and challenges of the act.
Bell Ringer: Landmark Legislation: 2002 No Child Left Behind Law
Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute and Carolyn Heinrich, a professor at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, discuss the 2002 No Child Left Behind law, including what was included in the legislation, the impact, and legacy of the act.
The Ruby Bridges Story
In this lesson, students will hear from a primary source, Ruby Bridges, as she spoke with elementary school students about her experiences as the first black student in an all-white school in New Orleans in 1960.
Choice Board: Academic Censorship
Who should be responsible for determining the content and materials that are included in school curricula? In this lesson, students will hear testimony from elected officials, people in the education community as well as a trailblazer in the Civil Rights Movement as they offer their perspectives on issues that should be addressed in educational settings as well as student access to materials such as books.
History of State Constitutions
Students watch, analyze, and respond to video clips that detail the goals of the writers of the first state constitutions, explore historical the background, and and examine Virginia’s, Pennsylvania’s, or Massachusetts’ first state constitutions.
History of Political Polling in the United States
This lesson features the history of political polling in the United States going back to the 19th century and the development and use of polling since then.
Juneteenth (June 19) commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas, with news that the Civil War was over and that enslaved people were free. While the day has been celebrated ever since, it was only recognized as a federal holiday in 2021. This resource page includes a video of a conversation with Annette Gordon-Reed about her book “On Juneteenth,” primary sources from the Gilder Lehrman Collection, and a lesson plan “Juneteenth and Emancipation.”
Juneteenth and Emancipation
Over the course of four lessons, students will analyze primary source documents that convey the realities of slavery in the United States, represent various viewpoints on emancipation, and provide context for the federal holiday of Juneteenth, which is the most widely recognized commemoration of slavery’s end. Students will read and assess different types of documents not only to comprehend the language of the text but also to infer meaning and integrate historical context. They will use textual evidence to draw conclusions and present arguments as directed in each lesson, including debating whether Juneteenth is the date that should be celebrated as the end of slavery in the United States.