One of the most important things we can teach our children is how to apply the lessons they learn in school to what is happening in the real world. And in today’s world, it can be pretty confusing.
December 15 is Bill of Rights Day, commemorating the 1791 ratification of ten crucial amendments to the US Constitution. It’s a good time to consider issues we face in America today and think about how they relate to those rights.
If you answered that they all involve rights guaranteed by our Constitution, well done.
These events raise issues of freedom of speech and the press and religion. They show the tension between freedom of assembly and public safety. They touch on the right to bear arms and the power of government to prevent public danger. And they look to the important rights of privacy, a trial by jury, and the right to marry.
Just because rights are declared in the Constitution does not make them simple.
Rights are complicated. America's founders took two years to ratify the Bill of Rights, and they ended up omitting two of the twelve amendments that were proposed. The interpretation of these rights has evolved over time.
Schools play an essential role in teaching children the basics about the Bill of Rights. But parents also can help reinforce this learning. Bill of Rights Day is a chance to talk about it. Here are some questions to start the conversation:
Are you struggling a little bit to engage kids in these issues? We’ve put together some resources to help.
This site explains constitutional topics for different grade levels:
Summarizes the amendments that became the Bill of Rights and how they relate to children’s lives.
ACLU of Maryland
A Resource Guide for Teaching the Bill of Rights. This is quite a thorough look at important rights that affect students and contains major legal cases written so kids can understand.
National Constitution Center
Celebrate the Bill of Rights Day with educational resources from the National Constitution Center
Facing History and Ourselves
Investigate cornerstones of successful democracies, including religious freedom, a free press, media literacy, and living with differences.
Don't just learn civics - play civics! Free resources, tools, and support for informed and engaging civic learning.
Arts and the Bill of Rights
I love it. Here's a musical interpretation of the Bill of Rights that illustrates how you can teach using the arts.
What about Women?
A conversation about the Bill of Rights seems incomplete without acknowledging that the Bill of Rights started a process that remains unfinished. To pick a glaring example, a constitutional amendment to permanently guarantee equal rights regardless of gender has never been ratified. The process stalled in the southern states generations ago.
Application Deadline: January 19, 2018
Is your school doing great work helping kids understand their rights and responsibilities as citizens? Then apply for the California Civic Learning Award. It celebrates public schools' efforts to engage students in civic learning.
Happy Holidays to everyone! Thank you Bill of Rights!
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