Supreme Court

"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.

John Ross vs. the 1835 Treaty of New Echota (from "Well, OK Then...")

Chief John Ross was a “mixed-blood” Cherokee who nevertheless became the best-known and arguably the most effective tribal leader of his generation. His supporters tended to lean traditional – they were conservative, and old-school – wanting little or no contact with whites and uninterested in their version of “progress.” 

Because he would not agree to voluntary removal, the U.S. found others in the tribe who would. They plied them with land and money and the argument that this was going to happen one way or the other – so they might as well make it as painless as possible. The signers of the Treaty of New Echota (1835) violated the most sacred of Cherokee laws while lacking the status to even speak for the tribe to begin with.

Moment of Silence - Bown v. Gwinnett County School District (1997) / Brown v. Gilmore (2001)

Two cases in the early 1960s largely eliminated state-sponsored prayer from public schooling. Engel v. Vitale (1962) and Abington v. Schempp (1963) are to this day touted by the far right as responsible for having kicked God out of schools – leading inevitably to sex, drugs, violence, rock’n’roll, corduroy, divorce, the pill, AIDS, the Clintons, terrorism, and a Kenyan sleeper-cell Mooslim illegitimately seizing the White House for eight long, painful years.

The solution, of course, is to get God back IN our schools by requiring regimented recitation of state-approved chants. He LOVES those! Do this, we are assured, and America’s problems will vanish faster than you can say “civil liberties!”

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