Constitutional History in the High School Classroom
This panel will explore ways in which constitutional history can be used to promote debate about the impact that the Constitution and the Supreme Court have had upon the struggle for democracy and racial equality in the United States since the Civil War. The goal of the panel is to show social studies teachers how they can enliven their teaching of American political and social history by becoming more familiar with the writings that legal scholars, historians, Supreme Court Justices and reporters have done on key controversies regarding the Constitution -- and then incorporating those writings and relevant primary sources into their lesson plans. This panel grows out of a Teach-in on the Constitution, which was held this month at the New York Historical Society, featuring Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Eric Foner, Sanford Levinson, and Linda Greenhouse. This event, which drew some 400 teachers, was held in part to make up for the vacuum in professional development for social studies teachers created by Congress' de-funding of the Teaching American History (TAH) program. The coalition that put this Teach-in together -- which included the New York Historical Society, New York University, the Institute for Constitutional History, and the American Historical Society -- will also be discussed as offering an organizational model for local initiatives to keep history professional development for teachers alive in the aftermath of TAH's demise.