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High school teachers participate in Federal Trials and Great Debates Summer Institute


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High school teachers participate in Federal Trials and Great Debates Summer Institute

By John Glynn

WASHINGTON, July 29, 2014 — In an effort to enhance the knowledge and understanding of teachers of U.S. history, government, civics and law, the American Bar Association and the Federal Judicial Center recently co-sponsored the Ninth Annual Federal Trials and Great Debates in United States History Summer Institute for Teachers in Washington, D.C.


Twenty-one high school teachers from across the nation were selected to work with leading historians, federal judges and curriculum consultants on an intensive exploration of several federal trials through curriculum developed by the FJC and the ABA Division for Public Education. The FJC and ABA partnered to establish the institute in order to give teachers an inside view of federal court cases that never reach the Supreme Court but are significant. Teachers study the essential legal questions each case presents and develop strategies to incorporate judicial history into their school’s history and government curricula.

The landmark federal trials the teachers studied were: The Sedition Trials of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Prohibition-era warrantless wiretapping case of Olmstead v. United States and the Vietnam-era Pentagon Papers Case. All three cases offer teachers an opportunity to explore some of the competing interests called into question in First Amendment cases and to understand how the legal system has sought to balance those interests.    

“This institute provides teachers with an extraordinary opportunity to gain insight and access to the federal judiciary through these important historical cases,” said Bruce Ragsdale, director of the Federal Judicial History Office at the FJC.

Mabel C. McKinney-Browning, director of the ABA Division for Public Education, said, “Teachers leave the institute with an informed view of the judiciary, an enriched view of its rich and vibrant history and a renewed sense of the importance of the courts as a co-equal branch of our government.”

One of the institute’s highlights was a visit to the U.S. Supreme Court, where teachers witnessed the justices release three decisions and met with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The teachers also attended a federal court trial, where they participated in a question-and-answer session with a U.S. District Court judge.

More information on the Summer Institute for Teachers is available here. A group photo of all of the teachers participating in the institute is available for download here.      

The 2014 participants were:

The Federal Judicial Center is the education and research agency for the federal courts. Congress created the FJC in 1967 to promote improvements in judicial administration in the courts of the United States.

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