Sunday, March 29, 2009

Moving on in the Bill of Rights

The 5th and 6th Amendments

This week I will continue my discussion on teaching the Bill of Rights and the Supreme Court cases we should review in the process. If you have been following the last few weeks, I have listed a plethora of cases...probably too many in fact for the kids to truly remember. We have to be careful to give the students the background to answer tough Free Response Questions that call for case recall and recognition without overloading them. That is a fine line, and one I attempt to balance with each individual group on a yearly basis. Good luck.

This week let's review the 5th and 6th Amendments. From the 5th Amendment which includes Grand Juries (never incorporated), double jeopardy (the kids have seen the movie with the same name which messes up their concept of the principle), self-incrimination (the big one in AP World), due process, and eminent domain I spend the greatest amount of energy on self-incrimination. A short discussion on the difficulty, impracticality, and inconvenience of states conducting grand juries for each crime can be one slide on a power point discussion. Double jeopardy needs only a quick discussion with no case history and for eminent domain we discuss local examples and the 2005 Kelo v. City of New London case (primarily for the humorous aspect when Justice Souter had his homestead threatened following the decision).

Self-incrimination has three cases I discuss, one of which is a BIG ONE in AP World. The first case, Ashcraft v. Tennessee, was a case that put limits on police giving the "5th degree" interrogations. Miranda v. Arizona was the Warren case that you need to focus on. Most of us know the story and the irony (the man who later murdered Miranda was read his Miranda rights) and we need to be sure the students are up on this one. Miranda is always a possible Free Response Question as well as a Multiple Choice option. I also like to give the students the NY v. Quarles case that allows police to interrogate suspects in emergency situations that concerns public safety.

The 6th Amendment is of course the trial procedures amendment including witnesses, speedy trial, impartial jury, venue, indictment, and the BIG ONE...the right to counsel for defense. The Batson v. Kentucky case deals with impartial juries made up of peers. This is the only case I cover on the topic and I have yet to ever see this on an Exam. Speedy trial has a couple of interesting cases (see Hippocampus) but I have yet to see these specifically on an Exam.

The right to counsel is the one to focus on here. The cases for this are as follows:

Powell v. Alabama (the famous Scottsboro Boys Case dealing with lawyers in capital cases)
Betts v. Brady (said states should provide lawyers for mentally challenged, mentally ill, illiterate, and other special circumstances)
Gideon v. Wainwright (incorporated the right to a lawyer during the trial phase...the real Gideon is pictured above)
Escobedo v. Illinios (extended the right to a lawyer during questioning)

I use the Gideon's Trumpet film for this concept and really pound the case into the students. This case can appear on Free Response Questions as well as Multiple Choice. Put a large emphasis right here. If your students have had APUSH they will remember the Scottsboro Boys, but a quick review is in order. I would not dwell too long on the Scottsboro case, just the significance. If you use the movie Gideon's Trumpet, the Betts case is discussed very thoroughly.

Ok, I am almost done. Next week I will discuss the 8th,9th, and 10th Amendments and then we are done with the Bill of Rights. I know this has been a long and somewhat arduous discussion stretched over several weeks, but this is so critical to the AP Exam. On the other hand, the Bill of Rights and it's meaning today is a controversy that is at the heart of the conservative/liberal split in this nation. The students need to understand these issues thoroughly to make their decisions on their personal political philosophies. One way or the other, it is time well spent. Until next time...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The 2nd and 4th Amendments

Cases to Review

I am back from a wonderful spring break. I took a cross country train ride ending in Chicago and spent 3 days with my son site seeing and enjoying the great food and hospitality of the Windy City. Chicago is a city with a great history and even greater political significance. The city's enthusiasm for President Obama was clearly evident. As I stood in Grant Park I tried to imagine the emotions of that huge crowd that gathered on November 4th. Going back further in political history, it was the city that Harry Truman was nominated as VP in 1944 and who could ever forget 1968? Lots of history and my poor son endured three days of my recitation of it. The picture is the two of us at Cloud Gate in Millennium Park.

So much for my break...on to this week's topics, the 2nd and 4th Amendments. I will start with the 2nd Amendment, the right to bear arms. The first thing I like to point out to my students is that the 2nd Amendment has not been incorporated by the 14th Amendment. The Court has actually been pretty careful to dance around the 2nd Amendment. The problem of course is the language of the Amendment. Does the 2nd give us an individual right to own arms, or a communal right to arm a militia? I love to have the debate in my class after giving the students time to read on both sides of the issue. The cases I present to the students can be found in Oyez or Justia. They are as follows:

  • Presser v. Illinois (can militia parade with firearms)
  • United States v. Miller (was the federal firearms act outlawing sawed off shot guns and machine guns constitutional)
  • Quilici v. the Village of Morton Grove (can towns ban fire arms in the 2nd Circuit Appeals Court)
  • D.C. v. Heller (same question as above, different answer)
The first case was in the late 1800s and questioned if small militia groups could be banned from parading with arms. The Court said yes, Illinois could make such a ban. Miller claimed he could own any type of weapon including sawed off shot guns and machine guns denied by the Federal Firearms Act. The Court found for Congress and upheld the Act. Quilici and friends had to keep their guns at a gun club and could not have them in their home. The 2nd Circuit Court said that Morton Grove could regulate gun possession. Heller wanted to own a hand gun in Washington, D.C. even though the city had an ordinance denying this. This case saw a reversal of the Quilici ruling and said no to the cities ordinance. However, the Court stopped short of totally allowing all gun ownership. The case basically allowed guns to be owned and kept for defense in the home. Other gun ownership questions were not addressed in Heller however.

I almost doubt if we see Heller on the test at this point. It is a 2008 case and since questions are generated for the test over a year ahead of time, Heller will probably be absent from the Exam, but should be discussed with the students.

The 4th Amendment is great fun to teach, but we have to be careful not to dwell too long is easy to do and I have spent way to many days in some years looking at cases and discussing "what ifs" with the kids. The BIG ISSUE is the exclusionary rule that was first established in US v. Weeks. This of course is the idea that evidence gathered outside the boundaries of due process is not admissible in court. The Exclusionary Rule was incorporated in Wolf v. Colorado, but the decision left the states a lot of wiggle room. Mapp v. Ohio totally incorporated the case. Mapp is a huge case and should be studied very closely with the students. It has appeared on the AP Exam in multiple choice and free response questions on a regular basis.

As far as students go, the New Jersey v. TLO gave school administration great latitude to search students without warrants. Citing Tinker, the Court in TLO agreed that student rights did not end at the school's doorstep, but because of the special safety concerns and the fact that the schools act in place of the parents looking out for the children's safety, schools could search lockers, the students possessions, and the students with reasonable cause and without warrants. TLO is a regular on the AP Exam and should be looked at fairly closely.

I also give a bit of time to Vernonia School District v. Acton. This was a school drug test case that asked students going out for extra curricular activities to give permission to do random urine samples. The school district won the case again with the Court looking at the Tinker and TLO cases.

I give students a run down of other major cases (Terry v. Ohio for one) but try not to overburden them with too many case names. The general idea I try to leave with them is that while most of the time the police and district attorneys must proceed with all due process, there are times when the concern for public safety can override the individual right of privacy.

Try to remember not to overwhelm the kids with too many cases, but we must prepare them to recognize and be able to respond to the major cases that have affected the 2nd and 4th Amendments. Next week I will get into the trial rights and discuss the death penalty cases. Until then...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Completing the 1st Amendment

Free Press and Assembly

I had an opportunity to collaborate with teachers new to Advanced Placement Politics and Government last week. These were mostly young teachers who had taught government in high school prior to teaching APGOPO, but were pretty new to the AP scene. Several had read this blog and were shocked at my last three entries.

"Too many cases!" was the general comment. I agree! And here is the kicker...a couple of years ago there were almost no cases on the test. I had spent countless hours going over all of these cases and the students came back frustrated that none had appeared on the Exam. Last year, however, cases were all over both parts of the Exam. Who knows?????

Our role is to prepare the students the best we can for the Exam and at the same time give the students a college experience equal to the best 101 Poly Sci taught in the nation. In order to accomplish these goals I have but one thing to say to my young friends, "Case On!"

So, this week let us look at Free Press and Assembly and complete the 1st Amendment discussions. Jefferson once said that give the option of democratic government without a free press or a free press without a government, he would go with the latter. Tough words! Yet from the Zenger Case in colonial America until today, we all rely and trust that our press will speak the truth and be influenced only by their political persuasion, and not that of the government or a governmental agency. It is important we stress to our students that the press in America has always been biased. It is the nature of the American press. But that bias is an editorial decision made by the individual publisher and owner, not by those of whom they are reporting.

So here are some of the important cases I give my students to ponder:
  • Near v. Minnesota...the incorporation case that establishes no prior restraint by states
  • New York Times v. Sullivan...the "absence of malice" case
  • New York Times v. US...the Pentagon Papers could be published regardless of the national security claim by the government
  • Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart...a judges gag order concerning reporting a murder trial is prior restraint and unconstitutional
  • Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier...student newspapers are not covered under 1st Amendment since they are academic assignments
Of these, I spend the most time on Near, the Pentagon Papers, and Kuhlmeier. Now when it comes to Freedom of Assembly, I get through it fairly rapidly. The right is of course essential, however, the cases tend to be a bit obscure and this has never been a big part of an AP question. At any rate, I think you need to review these cases:
  • Dejonge v. Oregon...the incorporation case
  • The Village of Skokie v. National Socialist Party...the Nazi case where the Court said we could not stop an assembly because we hated the message
  • Hague v. CIO...unions had the right to assemble on public property.
I am headed out on Spring Break this week...if you are joining me enjoy the break. We have a great deal to get done when we return. I will be going over the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th Amendment cases in the next couple of weeks. Following that I have a two part discussion on Brown v. BOE planned that couples with the Civil Rights unit.

Just to let my faithful reader know the schedule for this blog for the rest of the school year, I will be continuing to write weekly into June and will be doing a daily blog from the AP reading at Daytona Beach the first week in June. I will take off a little time over the summer, but will start back up in August ready for the fall term. As always, I hope I am giving you some new and fresh ammo to take to the kids. I am always anxious to read any and all comments you might have....until then...

March Madness...and Free Speech

It's time to be sure we are Marching toward the Exam!

Hard to believe it is March Madness already. Wow...time flies and May 4th will be here before we know it. We need to be sure to keep on schedule and get it all in. A tall order, especially for those of you who are semester only teachers. With most of us facing spring break in the next few weeks, the days are ticking off.

So dear readers, this week I will push on with the Bill of Rights and discuss the Free speech issue. We discussed incorporation a couple of weeks ago and last week the discussion of the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses has really set much of the ground work for this discussion. Again sites I would direct you to are Oyez, Findlaw, and I find that most of the discussions on Wikipedia concerning Court cases are pretty least to start. The students like the oral arguments that are easy to access on Oyez. My students have also found Cornell Law School's site helpful.

Again we don't want to bury the kids in too many cases, but here are some of the cases that we have to teach. I like to break the cases into pure speech and speech plus cases. This helps the kids sort them out a bit in their own minds.

Pure Speech Cases:
Schneck v. US... the "clear and present danger doctrine" (picture above from
Gitlow v. NY...incorporation of 1st Amendment free speech
Chaplinski v. New Hampshire...fighting words not protected
Bethal School District v. Fraser...student speech not totally protected

Are there others you would add to this list? I try to keep it pretty simple. The first two are critical for AP students, Chaplinski was once on the Exam, so I always teach it, and Fraser was a student case and the Exam likes to focus on those. For a full list of cases go to the Bill of Rights Institute site in the Teacher section and there is a very complete list of cases.

Speech Plus Cases:
  • Tinker v. Des Moines...symbolic speech by students is OK if not disruptive to the school
  • Johnson v. Texas...the flag burning case where the Court found flag burning was protected speech
  • US v. O'Brien...Draft card burning is not protected
  • Morse v. Frederick...the infamous Bong Hits for Jesus...probably not on AP yet, but will be some day...a set back on student right of speech but failed to reverse Tinker
Other Speech Cases:
  • Miller v. California...sets out the ruling for what is obscene
  • Buckley v. Veleo...reasonable limits on campaign contribution OK, but could not ban due to political speech issues
With the exception of Morse v. Frederick, all of the above cases have appeared on the AP Exam in either Free Response or Multiple Choice since I have been involved with AP. Don't expect the students to know all of the facts of each case, but knowing the general Court opinion should be a bottom line on these.

Next week I will continue with Free Press and Free Assembly cases. When I finish with my class discussions on cases, I will have the students make charts with the case name, Amendment, and 5-10 word Court finding. It will be a good study guide for them on May 3rd!

If you are off on Spring Break, have a great time. If not....labor on my friends...until then....

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Teaching Freedom of Religion

Establishment and Prohibition

Last week I discussed the concept of incorporation, a very important concept for you students to get a handle on for the AP Exam. If you missed that discussion and are not sure what you need to know about the topic, you might want to scroll down and take a peak at what I had to say. This week I want to look at the 1st Amendment as it concerns the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause. Have your students look at the hippocampus. org readings and lectures on these topics. They are first class and will really help with student understanding.

I would also direct you to the Oyez site if you are unaware of it. Here you can locate hundreds of Court cases and find summaries, opinions, information on the Justices and how they voted, and you can even hear audio of the oral arguments on selected cases. Findlaw is another site that will give you the opinions and link you to related cases and cases in which your case is cited.

Establishment Clause

The Establishment Clause is not hard to teach. The students get very interested in the history and the cases. Many of the cases involve students and therefore easy for the kids to relate to. I first start the discussion on the Establishment Clause by referencing Jefferson's famous letter to the Danbury Baptist Church where he makes the famous "wall of separation" statement. This can lead to a discussion of original intention of the Founders including Enlightenment ideals and the state of religion in America in the 18th century.

I move on pretty quickly to the Supreme Court decisions that have truly shaped this concept. Below I will list the cases I focus on. You may have others you enjoy teaching, but I would caution you not to overwhelm kids with too many cases. While we can love cases and case history and remember them from years of teaching, the kids get the confused very quickly (as I have seen on AP exams as a reader).

  • Lemon vs. Kurtzman (three part standard set by the Court)
  • Abington School District v Schempp (family pictured above at the time of the case on Bible reading)
  • Engle v. Vitale and Wallace v. Jaffee (school prayer and moment of silence)
  • Allegheny v. ACLU (holiday displays by towns and cities)
I hold the students responsible for these cases, especially Lemon. The students absolutely must know the 3 standards the Court established in this case. I like to throw out a couple of other cases such as Lee v. Weisman (prayer at graduation) , Lynch vs. Donnelly (the so called plastic reindeer doctrine), and Sante Fe School Dist. v. Doe (prayer at athletic events). Again, I caution to not get the kids too bogged down in can prove to be a disaster!

Free Exercise

I start this topic with a discussion concerning the difference between belief and action. The Court in Ballard v. US said it wasn't in the business of defining religion or saying what was a religion and what wasn't, so pretty much, anytime someone has a sincere faith, the Court allows it. However, the Court has made it plain that while faith is allowed, actions can be limited. Here are some of the main cases I hit on during our discussion of Free Exercise which can be found in Oyez:
  • Reynolds v US (the polygamy case from the 1800s)
  • Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. Hialeah (animal sacrifice)
  • Westside School District v. Mergens (equal access for Bible Clubs)
  • Wisconsin v. Yoder (mandatory education and religion)
  • West Virginia BOE v. Barnett (flag salute case)
  • Employment Division v. Smith (the peyote case)
I like to discuss several other cases, but these are a pretty good group to focus on. Mergens is especially important as it was a case brought by a student. My students are always interested in the facts surrounding her case. Great discussion of some of the above cases are found on Be sure to have your students read the text, view the presentations, and check out the Explore boxes!!!

Next week I will share my thoughts on speech and assembly. Until then...