March 21, 2019

Equal Protection

Bush v. Orleans Painting Analysis

This conference session examined Norman Rockwell’s "The Problem We all Live With" as a complex story from the Civil Rights Movement. Rockwell was inspired by the experience of Ruby Bridges, and her 1960 court-ordered escort into a New Orleans elementary school, a result of the school desegregation case known as Bush v. Orleans Parish School Board.

Participants use the painting and federal court documents to ‘read’ the story of Bush, discuss how it serves as a resource for teaching about Civil Rights, as well as how other significant federal cases might be used to tell stories from American history.

Different Treatment for Different Folks

The lesson begins with an illustration of the “separate but equal” doctrine – two water fountains are depicted, one labeled “colored” and the other labeled “white”. Students will discuss how this doctrine was used to justify separate treatment based on race, and that such a policy would not be legal today. They will be presented with a list of situations involving separate treatment of two groups, and should take a stance as to whether each is legal or not. The lesson concludes by having students explain their justifications for their stances, and then providing them with the criteria used by our courts to determine if different treatment of groups is legal or not.  

Equality for All: Do We Need an Equal Rights Amendment?

In this lesson, students will learn about the history and current relevance of the Equal Rights Amendment. They will have a mini debate on whether or not the amendment should be ratified, and discuss the implications of such an amendment. 

Realizing the Dream Today                                   

Students will analyze a political cartoon depicting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the title of his famous speech, “I Have a Dream”. Discussion of the meaning of the cartoon leads into a more general conversation about rights and equality. 

Equal Protection Under Law

In this lesson, students will analyze the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection clause. They will distinguish between identical treatment and equal treatment under the law, and discuss situations in which discrimination is acceptable – not letting a 6 year-old obtain a driver’s license, for example. The instructor can then introduce the three bases used by our courts for determining whether discrimination is in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment or not: the “strict scrutiny” test, the “intermediate scrutiny” test, and the rational basis test. Students will then practice applying these tests in an exercise, and experience first-hand the difficulty in deciding which test applies.