Constitutional Democracy Project Law-Related Conference Recap

The Constitutional Democracy Project works to provide high-quality materials for educators and students that focus on the Constitution, law, and policy for middle and high school students. On October 28th, the Constitutional Democracy Project hosted the 2022 Annual Conference for Teachers of Civics, Law, and Government. The focus for this year’s convening was “Law, Elections, and Civics: Exploring the Cornerstones of Democracy,” and opened with a Plenary Session hosted by Carolyn Shapiro, Steve Schwinn, and Raff Donelson, who discussed major issues on the docket for the U.S. Supreme Court this upcoming session. 

The major themes highlighted in this discussion included affirmative action (as highlighted in Students for Fair Admissions v. UNC and Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard University), separation of powers (W. Virginia v. EPA), and threats toward the legitimacy of democracy in the United States (Moore v. Harper). The panel focused on these SCOTUS cases as examples of how to spark discussion with our students around the essential questions: How do we the people implement constitutional change? What are safeguards to assure the efficiency of the courts?

Breakout sessions during the convening covered various topics centered around law and the teaching of constitutional democracy in the classroom. One session that seemed particularly relevant to teachers and students was the National Constitution Center’s session on Teaching About Individual Rights: Tools for the Teaching Environment. The session provided an entire module for students on the Fourth Amendment, highlighting questions about the right to privacy using a Constitutional Literacy Framework. The module allows for students to discuss how the Supreme Court has interpreted the Fourth Amendment over time, how the Fourth Amendment applies to individual privacy in the new age of technology and analyzes current areas of debate around the subject.

One of the most moving parts of the convening was Keynote Speaker Commissioner June Brown from the Chicago Board of Elections. Brown shared her story of growing up as a Black woman in Alabama during the civil rights era. She spoke of the obstacles to voting for Black Americans she witnessed as a child, watching countless activists in her community fight for equal rights and how that has inspired her activism and work to help others have the right to fair and open elections in her city. Brown took time to thank all of the civic educators in the room for preparing students to be informed and active citizens in their individual communities. 

Overall the convening offered a variety of resources relevant to the work of the Illinois Civics community. We invite teachers and administrators to consider attending future events hosted by the Constitutional Democracy Project. In the meantime, check out their library of teacher resources for materials that will be useful in your schools.