Each year our social studies curriculum builds on what we have studied in the past. In September the oldest children revisited the Declaration of Independence this time focusing on the grievances articulated by the frustrated colonists. The list of grievances were divided between the students who, for homework, had to put them in their own words. They also had to identify places in the world that have had similar grievances with their government. Then we looked at the Constitution, this time focusing on the Bill of Rights and how germaine these first ten amendments are today.
Using the ABA’s (American Bar Association’s) curriculum we turned our attention to Freedom of Speech cases. After learning about the Supreme Court’s hearing of the Tinker Case, the children divided into two groups and prepared arguments for and against the Tinkers. Then the lawyers and witnesses presented their case, from the perspective of the Tinkers and the Des Moines School Board, before the whole school. This resulted in a rich discussion of the complex nuances of Freedom of Speech.
The following week we invited Ryan Hatch, as a Mystery Guest, to come and talk with the class. Ryan is a Constitutional Lawyer and he was able to share details about a case, very similar to the Tinkers Case. It involved students who came to school with a confederate flag on their T-shirt. A rich and complex discussion followed.