Like many school systems, Hawkins County schools teach “critical reading” as opposed to reading exercises that teach only word and sound recognition. “Critical reading” requires the development of higher order cognitive skills that enable students to evaluate the material they read, to contrast the ideas presented, and to understand complex characters that appear in reading material…
From a constitutional standpoint, the most interesting thing was the natural tension which sometimes occurs between free exercise and non-establishment. Socio-emotionally, however, the real hand grenade was the question of individual parental rights (with a side of religious freedom) vs. the presumed long-term good of the child and of society as a whole. Civilization is premised on the idea that we’ll each forego a degree of personal autonomy in order to benefit from participation in society. Schools are a major part of that arrangement.
While I’m still skeptical about the degree to which short stories in a middle school primer truly pushed little people into worshipping horse gods, this second list has the significant benefit of not sounding completely insane. Maybe it WAS possible that the touchy-feely, one-gluten-free-world mojo so popular with academic types in the late 1970s had infiltrated the editorial choices of those most in a position to influence tiny brains.
At what point have we raced well past “everyone is different” and ended up lost somewhere between “meat is murder” and “vote Bernie or we all perish”?
Most “wall of separation” cases related to public education involve questions of “establishment.” When Ms. Magdalene puts up Christmas decorations in her classroom, that violates the Establishment Clause. Inviting local clergy to open graduation ceremonies with a brief prayer is a no-no because it’s “establishment.” Requiring equal time for Creationism when it’s time for the chapter on Evolution? You guessed it – that’s “establishment” as well.
From time to time, however, a case will work its way through the system asserting the opposite. In these “free exercise” cases, the claim is that the state – in this case, manifested as the public school system – has hindered personal expressions of religious belief or behavior without sufficient cause. The “sufficient cause” part is important because the state has the right to place some limits on how faith is manifested when there’s a good reason. (Human sacrifice, for example, is a “no-no” even if your gods demand placation.) Government entities must demonstrate that they have a good reason for their restrictions, however. And, if there are less-restrictive ways to accomplish those goals, they have to try those first.
Stuff You Don’t Really Want To Know (But For Some Reason Have To) About the Decalogue (aka, "The Ten Commandments")
Three Big Things:
1. Moses and the Ten Commandments are foundational elements of both Judaism and Christianity and hold a revered place in Islam as well.
“School choice” wouldn’t emerge onto the national scene until after Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and the various forays into moral corruption and social decay wouldn’t become staples of the nation’s highest court until a decade after that. The rest of the Lochner Era was largely about how freedom meant letting corporations do whatever they wanted to workers because those being exploited had just as much theoretical control over the outcome as their gilded overlords did. (They didn’t put it in those exact terms.) Between 1897 – 1937, the Supreme Court struck down nearly 200 different statues, most as violations of “freedom of contract” or other violation of “economic substantive due process.”
The Lochner Era (1897 – 1937), however, is named for a case representing a judicial philosophy which dominated the nation’s highest court for nearly forty years. For over a generation, the Court pushed back against the reform efforts of the Progressive Era and gave FDR fits by overturning many of his best efforts to regulate industry during the Great Depression. They laid the foundation for the modern “school choice” movement by uncovering new rights related to parenting and families. In the process, they brought to life an understanding of the Fourteenth Amendment that would end up securing the rights of American citizens to contraception, gay sex, and abortions.
The dilemma of any effort to compile “must know” Supreme Court cases is deciding where to draw the line. If you narrow it to a list of 12, there are at least 3 or 4 others that really MUST be added in the name of consistency. If you expand the list to, say... 24, you're sacrificing another half-dozen that should simply NOT be neglected if you're to retain ANY credibility.
Three Big Things:
1. Responsible for the best-known and arguably most influential set of legal codes in the ancient world. Key issue: they were written down and publicly posted.
2. Brought Mesopotamia together as a more-or-less united empire (this time with Babylon as the seat of central authority) for the first time since Sargon six centuries prior.
3. Seriously, the written law thing. It’s just huge. “An eye for an eye”? That was his. Innocent until proven guilty? Also his, although not phrased quite so smoothly. A chance for the accused to defend themselves? Punishment fitting the crime? Throwing people in rivers to see if they float? That’s Hammurabi, baby.
Three Big Things:
1. The Swahili Coast was an important part of the Indian Ocean Trade Network in the 12th – 15th centuries. It’s a useful historical example of trade networks, cultural diffusion, and interaction between man and environment.
2. Over time, the people of the Swahili Coast evolved into a series of independent city-states sharing a common language (Swahili), a common faith (Islam), and a coherent economic system (er… “Trade”) – all of which were adapted and substantially modified to fit their local needs and collective culture.
3. The Swahili Coast declined after the Portuguese tried to take over Indian Ocean trade and mandate adherance to their superior Euopean whims. It didn’t work, but it did enough damage that the glory days were no more.