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Who Should Protect Our Fundamental Freedoms?

55 min


  • Students will describe fundamental freedoms.
  • Students will list the multiple protections provided by the Bill of Rights.
  • Students will review Supreme Court incorporation cases.
  • Students will assess the constitutional implications of incorporation.
  • Students will appreciate the challenges in defining fundamental freedoms.

  1. Briefly review with the students the key points and/or the Critical Thinking questions from Handout A.
  2. Review responses to Handout B: Attitude Inventory. Ask students the following:
    1. Did your responses change after reading the essay? If so, how and why?
    2. Would you be bothered if your state allowed 18 year-olds to purchase alcohol but a neighboring state did not? What if the situation were reversed?
    3. What if your state did not permit trial by jury but a neighboring state did?
    4. Is the right to purchase alcohol a fundamental freedom? Is the right to trial by jury a fundamental freedom?
    5. What is a fundamental freedom?
    6. How does your state government protect your rights? How does the federal government protect your rights?

  1. Distribute Student Handout C: Fundamental Freedoms? along with a copy of the Bill of Rights. Give students about ten minutes (working in pairs) to complete their list.
  2. Ask students to circle those rights which they think are fundamental freedoms. They can circle as few or as many, but should be prepared to discuss their selection.
  3. Distribute Handout D: Incorporation Cases Chart and give students time to indicate in the Incorporation column on Handout C which freedoms have been incorporated against the states.
    1. Discuss the following questions with the entire class:
      1. Which rights listed in the Bill of Rights have not been incorporated? Why?
      2. Would your conscience be “shocked” if some rights listed in the Bill of Rights were denied you by your state government? Which rights are those?
      3. Are those rights fundamental freedoms?
      4. Which list of fundamental freedoms is longer, yours or the Supreme Court’s (as indicated by the rights that have been incorporated)? How do you account for the differences? Is your list too long? Is the Court’s too short?
      5. Looking at Handout D, do you observe any patterns in the cases; e.g. types of issues decided? when they were decided? amendments which were referenced?

  1. Have students choose one of the rights that is not incorporated and write a “Letter to the Editor” either opposing or supporting incorporation.
    1. Their letter should include an explanation of why the right is/is not a fundamental freedom, and why it would be better for the citizens of their state if the right were/were not incorporated.

Student Handouts