These are complicated times, and in the interest of serving ALL students (and avoiding as many problems with parents as possible), I’m renewing my commitment to avoid pushing my own personal values and ideology and just sticking to the facts.
Each summer, I solicit suggestions from real live middle school teachers of books to use in social studies classes. I post them on Blue Cereal as a reference for other educators, and over the years it’s become one of the more visited sections of the site. I’m a huge fan of reading across the content areas, although I try not to call it that because it sounds too much like the name of an expensive curriculum being pushed on desperate districts, like “Literacy First!” or “Pre-AP.” I even try to actually read the books before I add them to the list. Given that most of them are written with 12-year olds in mind, you’d think I’d do a better job keeping up.
“School choice” wouldn’t emerge onto the national scene until after Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and the various forays into moral corruption and social decay wouldn’t become staples of the nation’s highest court until a decade after that. The rest of the Lochner Era was largely about how freedom meant letting corporations do whatever they wanted to workers because those being exploited had just as much theoretical control over the outcome as their gilded overlords did. (They didn’t put it in those exact terms.) Between 1897 – 1937, the Supreme Court struck down nearly 200 different statues, most as violations of “freedom of contract” or other violation of “economic substantive due process.”
The Lochner Era (1897 – 1937), however, is named for a case representing a judicial philosophy which dominated the nation’s highest court for nearly forty years. For over a generation, the Court pushed back against the reform efforts of the Progressive Era and gave FDR fits by overturning many of his best efforts to regulate industry during the Great Depression. They laid the foundation for the modern “school choice” movement by uncovering new rights related to parenting and families. In the process, they brought to life an understanding of the Fourteenth Amendment that would end up securing the rights of American citizens to contraception, gay sex, and abortions.
The dilemma of any effort to compile “must know” Supreme Court cases is deciding where to draw the line. If you narrow it to a list of 12, there are at least 3 or 4 others that really MUST be added in the name of consistency. If you expand the list to, say... 24, you're sacrificing another half-dozen that should simply NOT be neglected if you're to retain ANY credibility.
Is It Constitutional Now? How About Now? Or Now?
Three Big Things:
1. After it became clear that state-sponsored prayer was no longer a realistic option in public education, states began experimenting with the idea of a “moment of silence” during which students could pray (although no one had ever suggested that they couldn’t).
This is something I lifted from Rhonda Johnson who used to teach with me in Tulsa and who’s still kicking young minds towards greatness there. Rhonda is one of the most entertaining and intellectually challenging people I’ve ever known, and I appreciate her agreeing to let me sponge off of her in this way.
Then again, why should this be any different than anything else I’ve borrowed from her over the years?
I started using variations of what I’ve come to simply think of as “Those Circle Things” in workshops, in class, and sometimes just to annoy friends at parties. They make great bellringers, discussion-starters, and I’ve even used them as informal assessments.
They’re also pretty easy to use with Google Slides or Pear Deck or whatever technological platform makes you tingle, and work equally well for synchronous or asynchronous discussion. They're especially useful when you need ideas for "e-learning" on snow days, or when you’re huddled at home hiding from the coronavirus and wondering if you’ll have to throw out the bottled water and granola bars you left in your desk three months ago when you assumed we’d be back in a few weeks and god I need a haircut...
Three Big Things:
1. Responsible for the best-known and arguably most influential set of legal codes in the ancient world. Key issue: they were written down and publicly posted.
2. Brought Mesopotamia together as a more-or-less united empire (this time with Babylon as the seat of central authority) for the first time since Sargon six centuries prior.
3. Seriously, the written law thing. It’s just huge. “An eye for an eye”? That was his. Innocent until proven guilty? Also his, although not phrased quite so smoothly. A chance for the accused to defend themselves? Punishment fitting the crime? Throwing people in rivers to see if they float? That’s Hammurabi, baby.
Three Big Things:
1. The Swahili Coast was an important part of the Indian Ocean Trade Network in the 12th – 15th centuries. It’s a useful historical example of trade networks, cultural diffusion, and interaction between man and environment.
2. Over time, the people of the Swahili Coast evolved into a series of independent city-states sharing a common language (Swahili), a common faith (Islam), and a coherent economic system (er… “Trade”) – all of which were adapted and substantially modified to fit their local needs and collective culture.
3. The Swahili Coast declined after the Portuguese tried to take over Indian Ocean trade and mandate adherance to their superior Euopean whims. It didn’t work, but it did enough damage that the glory days were no more.