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.
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.
The Presidential Election of 1912 Exhibit
This collection of primary source documents is intended to help readers identify and think about some of the key ideas and issues surrounding the U.S. Presidential election of 1912. The 1912 election was a significant event in American history for a number of reasons, representing the high-water mark of the so-called Progressive Era in American electoral politics. This pivotal moment is explained by Jason Jividen in his opening essay, in which he establishes the situation leading into the election year, contextualizes the ideas and personalities in play and conflict, and explains what happened. The exhibit also includes key facts and statistics from the election itself, including an electoral map, and vote counts and popular vote shares in each state. We also included important demographic statistics to help the reader understand the differences and similarities between America then and now.
1912 Republican Convention: TR Starts the Bull Moose Party
This four-minute video provides students with an introduction to the election of 1912 and the emergence of the progressive Bull Moose party, named for Theodore Roosevelt’s saying after an assassination attempt that he was “fit as a bull moose” to become president again. Focusing on Theodore Roosevelt’s decision to challenge President William Taft for the 1912 Republican Party nomination, the video shows students how the newly created system of direct primaries affected the race, and how Roosevelt’s failure to wrest the nomination from Taft resulted in the formation of the short-lived Bull Moose party. The video is useful for lessons focused on the election of 1912, or for lessons focused on the political reforms of the progressive era.
Election of 1860: Slavery Splits the Democrats
This four-minute video explores the causes and consequences of the Democratic Party’s division into two parties following the Democratic national convention of 1860. After rejecting Stephen A. Douglas’s failed attempt to reconcile the Northern and Southern factions of the party with his doctrine of “popular sovereignty,” the Southern delegates walked out of the convention. That decision led to the election of Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, and 50 years of Republican dominance in national politics. A concise summary of the unusual events that allowed Abraham Lincoln to win the election of 1860, the video fits into any sequence of lessons on the factors leading to secession and the Civil War.
Dictators and Civil Wars: The Cold War in Latin America
This 6-minute video explores how the Cold War was an ideological, and sometimes military, struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union. In general, the Soviet Union supported the expansion of communist governments around the globe, and the United States supported anti-communist regimes, including both democracies and dictatorships. By the 1950s, these tensions were seen in Latin America, and revolutions, coups, and uprisings became commonplace throughout most of the latter half of the twentieth century.
How to Fact-Check History
This lesson and its accompanying seven-minute video introduce students to a professional fact-checker, who describes the methods and processes he employs to verify information that appears in news stories. The video explains which claims can be fact-checked, and why some sources are more reliable than others. How do fact-checkers engage in analysis of contemporary and historical claims? How do we distinguish between “bad facts” and “bad narratives” when critiquing media sources? Examine the tools that fact-checkers use to identify and interrogate claims, and put those skills into practice.
Aftermath of the War on Terror
This 11-minute video and lesson plan enable students to examine the experiences of Muslims and Arab Americans following the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Students will investigate one example of a flawed prosecution of Arab immigrants living in Detroit as a case study in the climate of fear following the attacks. Students will then choose from among other primary source materials to describe particular experiences and generalize about the broader experiences of Muslims and Arab Americans.
The War on Terror and the Debate Over Torture
This 13-minute video and lesson plan are designed for students to analyze the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the public debate over the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques by U.S. officials and government contractors. Students will evaluate multiple perspectives from a mix of resources (video clips, a short film, documents and political cartoons) and classify arguments as being supportive, neutral or critical of government action.
How the Military Response to 9/11 Led to Two Decades of War in Afghanistan
This 12-minute video and lesson plan examine how within weeks of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan to attack Taliban strongholds. By the end of the year, the mission’s main goal was accomplished. But shifting objectives led to the expansion of a war that became the longest in U.S. history, and is ending in chaos. This lesson asks students to engage in a “Structured Academic Controversy.” The goal of the activity is for students to analyze sources, classify arguments, and engage in discussion.