Justice in America
Class Length: 2-4 class meetings
Objectives:Students will be able to:1.Compose a one-page response explaining their understanding of “justice.”2.Use and analyze primary sources for evidence of intent and purpose.3.Apply their understanding of justice to various hypothetical situations.4.Apply the concept of “justice” to early American dissatisfaction to British rule.
Materials:-Image of “Lady Justice” (cited reference #1)- The Pledge of Allegiance (cited reference #2)- The Bill of Rights – Sixth Amendment (cited reference #4)-Excerpts fromThe Declaration of Independence(cited reference #5)- The Preamble to the Constitution (cited reference #6)-Quotes on Justice (cited reference 9)-Overhead projector
Procedures:Students are given a list of quotes about “justice.”Ask students to respond to the following prompt in a quick write:“What does it mean for a society to be just?”After students have completed this work, facilitate a guided discussion.Use this discussion to generate a list of ideas on the board.Then help students determine whether their ideas math with the ideals of justice established by the founders of the U.S. government. Divide students into five groups. Then distribute one excerpt from a primary document, referenced below, to each group.In addition, distribute accompanying questions to each group. In groups students will discuss the meaning of “justice” as it is intended in the document, and answer the accompanying questions on a separate piece of paper. Questions about Justice From Primary Sources The Declaration of Independence:
What main complaints and issues did the Colonists have against Great Britain’s King George?
How did King George obstruct justice?
Compare and contrast the phrases “Administration of Justice,” “native justice,” “the voice of justice”
What sort of “justice” were Colonists most interested in?
The Virginia Declaration of Rights:
What is important in order to have a “free government”?
Are “justice” and “the preservation of liberty” the same thing? Why or why not?
What did the Virginians mean by “justice”?
Do all people deserve the right to have “justice”? Why/why not?
The Preamble to the Constitution:
What did the writers of the Preamble mean by “establish justice”?
Think about the order of the wording in the preamble.Why do you think that “establish justice” comes before “insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty”?
How does justice play a role in the following phrases: “forming a more perfect union” or “insuring domestic tranquility”?
How specific were the writers of the Preamble being in their description of “justice”?Why do you think they chose to be this specific?
How does the Preamble influence your definition of “justice”?
The Pledge of Allegiance:
Think about why you said The Pledge of Allegiance everyday in elementary school?Why do schools do this?
What does it mean to provide justice for all?
Should we all be treated the same or judged on our unique situations?Support your answers with thoughtful reasoning.
Is “justice” a concrete or abstract term? Why?
The Bill of Rights – Sixth Amendment (discussion can include the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Amendments and the kinds of rights the Founding Fathers wanted to protect):
What were the main goals of the Founding Fathers’ idea of a system of justice?
What rights did the Founding Fathers want to protect?