American Government

A Moment of Silence: Wallace v. Jaffree (1985)

Is It Constitutional Now? How About Now? Or Now?

Three Big Things:

Moment of Silence1. 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).

"Have To" History: Stone v. Graham (1980)

Ten CommandmentsThe Supreme Court’s decision in Stone v. Graham was announced on November 17th, 1980. Less than two weeks earlier, Ronald Reagan had been elected President of the United States, initiating what would later be called the “Reagan Revolution” – a resurgence of conservative values and policies anchored in an idealized past. The events leading to Stone began years earlier, but its outcome sent a message to the faithful in the 1980s similar to that of Engel v. Vitale and Abington v. Schempp two decades before: American’s fundamental values (meaning public promotion of Christianity) were under attack by intellectual elitists… aka “liberals.” And some of them wore robes.

"Have To" History: Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972)

Walking Amish

Wisconsin law required that kids be in school SOMEWHERE – public or private was up to the parents – until they were at least 16. Yoder, Miller, and Yutzy were prosecuted for violating state law and the case went to trial with Jonas Yoder acting on behalf of the group. While he was no doubt a capable individual, the Amish and Conservative Mennonites aren’t big on using the court system to resolve their difficulties. They do not, by and large, sue people for damages or seek legal recourse for minor infractions. An “Amish Lawyer” would be about as common as a “Shiite Stripper” or a “Hindu Butcher.”

"Have To" History: Zorach v. Clauson (1952)

The celebrations of freedom and democracy which lingered after World War II were rapidly fading in favor of fear, suspicion, and a sense of persecuted minority status among the straight white Protestants who still made up nearly 90% of the nation’s population (and virtually 100% of its leadership). Historically, it seems, nothing threatens entrenched demographic power like a handful of outliers thinking their lives matter as well.

"Have To" History: McCollum v. Board of Education (1948)

Three Big Things:

1. McCollum v. Board of Education was the first Supreme Court case to test the idea of “released time” during the school day for religious instruction by outside groups or religious leaders.

2. The Court’s four different written opinions demonstrate the complexity of applying absolutist rhetoric (“wall of separation”) to specific circumstances without trampling on the rights of local decision-makers.

3. The issues debated in McCollum reappeared in various iterations long after this particular decision and still come up in only slightly modified forms today.

"Have To" History: United States vs. Nixon (1974)

Serious NixonThree Big Things:

1. In 1972, five men working for the Nixon Administration were caught breaking into Democratic National Headquarters. Investigations revealed much wider-spread wrongdoing by the White House – and efforts by the President himself to cover it all up.

2. When it was revealed that the President recorded his conversations, the tapes were subpoenaed by Congress; Nixon refused, claiming “executive privilege.”

3. The Supreme Court ruled against the President, who resigned to avoid impeachment. “Watergate” became shorthand for all things corrupt, especially in reference to major political scandals.

Roe v. Wade (1973) - Written Opinions {Excerpts}

I’ve recently been working on something I’m hoping other teachers might find useful for their own reference or for use in the classroom. It’s a compilation of a dozen or so of the most “Have To” Supreme Court cases in U.S. History – case summaries, excerpts from the majority opinions and periodically from dissents as well, and a few guiding questions over both the summaries and the opinion excerpts.

Roe v. Wade (1973) - Draft from "Have To" History: Landmark Supreme Court Cases

Roe v. WadeI’ve recently been working on something I’m hoping other teachers might find useful for their own reference or for use in the classroom. It’s a compilation of a dozen or so of the most “Have To” Supreme Court cases in U.S. History – case summaries, excerpts from the majority opinions and periodically from dissents as well, and a few guiding questions over both the summaries and the opinion excerpts.

The summary of Roe is still a bit longer than I'd like, but I'm open to suggestions that don't involve ideological outrage.

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