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Content: Supreme Court Rulings on Individual Rights
Schenck v. United States (1919)
In 1917, while American soldiers were fighting in France during World War I, the general secretary of the Socialist Party (Charles T. Schenck) mailed 15,000 leaflets to young men urging them to resist the draft. Schenck and his colleagues were arrested for violating the Espionage Act of 1917. They were charged with conspiring to cause insubordination in the armed forces, obstructing the draft, and using the mail unlawfully. Schenck argued that their right to free speech had been denied. The Court ruled against Schenck. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes argued that Congress has the right to prevent free speech if it constitutes a "clear and present danger."
Dennis v. United States (1951)
In 1948, Eugene Dennis and 10 other leaders of the American Communist Party were arrested and charged with conspiring to teach how to overthrow the government by forceful means. Their highly publicized trial lasted nine months. They were found guilty of violating the Smith Act, which made it illegal to advocate the violent overthrow of the government. Mr. Dennis claimed that the Smith Act violated his right to free speech. The communist leaders appealed their case to the Supreme Court, arguing that advocating a revolution is not the same as starting one, and that it was unconstitutional to punish individuals for their ideas. The Court ruled against Dennis, finding that freedom of speech can be lifted if the speech represents a "clear and present danger." Between 1951 and 1956, 120 alleged "second-string" communists were arrested and convicted.
Mapp v. Ohio (1961)
Based on a tip that a bombing suspect was hiding out in the home of Dorlee Mapp, police in Cleveland, Ohio came to search the young woman's home. Ms. Mapp asked to see a search warrant, but the police did not have one. The police left and returned with what Ms. Mapp claimed was a blank piece of paper. The police didn't find the suspect, but they did find pornographic materials that were illegal to possess in the state of Ohio. Ms. Mapp was arrested, tried, and convicted on an obscenity charge -- a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison. She appealed the conviction, arguing that the search of her home was a violation of her Fourth Amendment right to protection against unreasonable search and seizure. The Court sided with Ms. Mapp and in its ruling created the exclusionary rule, making illegally obtained evidence inadmissible in court.
Olmstead v. United States (1928)
In 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment was passed, which made it illegal to manufacture, transport, or sell intoxicating beverages. In the late 1920s, a known bootlegger named Roy Olmstead had more than 50 employees working for him and owned two ocean vessels that he used to import liquor. Federal agents wiretapped his phone and used the recordings as evidence to convict Olmstead of violating the Eighteenth Amendment. Olmstead appealed on the basis that his Fourth Amendment right to privacy had been violated and evidence against him had been obtained without a warrant. The Court ruled against Olmstead, claiming that an individual's right to privacy and right to be shown a search warrant applied to entering his home and seizing property, but not to eavesdropping on telephone conversations.
Texas v. Johnson (1989)
In 1984, a crowd gathered outside the Republican National Convention in Dallas to protest the Reagan Administration's policies. During the demonstration, an American flag was burned, and Gregory Johnson was arrested and convicted under Texas law of desecrating a flag and disturbing the peace. Johnson appealed his conviction and lost in the state court of appeals. Later, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned his conviction, holding that burning the flag is "expressive conduct" protected by the First Amendment. The State of Texas then appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled 5-4 in Johnson's favor that his conviction was inconsistent with the First Amendment.
Teaching Strategy: Role-Playing and Simulations
Interactive teaching strategies like role-playing and simulations work best when they're presented spontaneously to students. However, effective use of role-playing requires preparation, a well-defined format, clearly defined goals and outcomes, and time to debrief after the simulation. Role-playing and simulations require students to improvise using the information available to them. In the process, it encourages critical thinking and cooperative learning. These teaching tools can also be effective in helping students clarify attitudes and ideologies and make connections between abstract concepts and real-world events.
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