Sunday, May 23, 2004

Teaching the Bill of Rights

Teaching the Bill of Rights. This paper presents a brief history of the American Bill of Rights with ideas for presenting the topic in the classroom.

From the site:

The two-hundredth anniversary of the federal Bill of Rights in 1991 is the culmination of a multi-year bicentennial celebration of the U.S. Constitution. It is also a special occasion for renewal and improvement of education on core values and principles in the U.S. Bill of Rights.

The great importance of the Bill of Rights in the civic life of Americans justifies placing great emphasis on this document in the curriculum of schools. And effective teaching and learning about the Bill of Rights are required to prepare young Americans for citizenship in their constitutional democracy. This ERIC Digest examines education about the Bill of Rights in schools: (1) the status of it, (2) deficiencies in it, and (3) means to improve it.


Understanding of the Bill of Rights is an important part of education for responsible citizenship in the United States, as indicated by curriculum guides and standard textbooks in American history, government, and civics. Constitutional rights and liberties are emphasized in statements of goals for education in the social studies published by local school districts, state-level departments of education, and the National Assessment for Educational Progress (1988, 12-13).

Most Americans have studied the Bill of Rights at least four times in school--(1) in a fifth-grade American studies course, (2) in a junior high/middle school American history course, (3) in a high school American history course, and (4) in a high school American government or civics course. In addition, a growing number of students learn about Bill of Rights concepts and issues through special units or elective courses in law-related education. These formal courses of study expose students to ideas in the Bill of Rights as well as the document's origin and development, and it's relevance to citizenship and government in the United States.

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