Civics education is much more than conveying factual knowledge; teaching should be an interactive process that fosters critical thinking, ignites interest, and encourages the application of knowledge into action.
My learning goals for my students are to achieve solid understanding through an interactive process, to think critically about the subject matter, and apply their knowledge to real life issues.
I'd love to hear what you think about these issues...
Are threatening statements made on social media protected by the First Amendment? On December 1, 2014, the Supreme Court heard argument in the case of a Pennsylvania man who ranted on Facebook about killing his wife and others. He argued that this was not a threat, but an artistic expression of anger, similar to some rap lyrics? Was this a real threat, and therefore not protected by the First Amendment? How can we tell? Should the standard be whether the speaker intended the comment as a threat, or whether the recipient felt threatened?
Listen to the Supreme Court argument in Elonis v. United States here. Stay tuned for the Court's decision this spring.
Does the Fourth Amendment apply to border searches? The Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled on March 8, 2013 that it does (U.S. v. Cotterman). Read this commentary. Do you agree?
How should freedom of religion apply in public schools? Consider this real life example: A six-year old student wrote this poem to honor her grandfather's service in the Vietnam War: "...He prayed to God for peace, he prayed to God for strength..." When the child was to read her poem at a Veteran's Day school assembly, she was told that she could not say the word God. Read about the story here. What do you think?
Is anonymous online speech protected?
Read and consider this before making an anonymous posting.
Should affirmative action continue?
In 2003, the Supreme Court held (5-4) that an applicant's race may be one factor among many to be considered in a university's efforts to achieve diversity (Grutter v. Bollinger).
On October 10, 2012, the Supreme Court reconsidered the issue of affirmative action. Click here to listen to oral argument in Fisher v. University of Texas and here for Professors Carolyn Shapiro and Sheldon Nahmod discussing the case. Read the Court opinion here.
On October 15, 2013, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action about whether the 14th Amendment requires states to consider race when making decisions. The Court's decision was announced on April 22, 2014. Read the Court opinion here.
Can a public school punish a student for comments posted online and after school hours?
Although students have free speech rights in school and off-campus, schools can punish or restrict speech that is disruptive. But what if that speech takes place online after school hours? Ken Paulson, President of the First Amendment Center, writes of a recent case.
Is "liking" something on Facebook protected free speech?
Virginia judge said no. But the Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit disagreed. Watch two attorneys debate the issue here:
Should the electoral college be abolished? Watch this entertaining and informative video.
Do we have too much free speech...or not enough? Watch students discuss the issue with three Supreme Court justices.