Defining Equality

General Description

Students will be able to analyze how the constitutional value of equality has changed over time.

Students will understand that:
  • The U.S. Supreme Court is the supreme authority over the meaning of the U.S. Constitution and has changed its interpretation of the Constitution over time.
  • While the concept of equality was included in the Declaration of Independence, its meaning has changed over time.
  • The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits states from denying any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
  • Decisions of the Supreme Court have a profound impact on everyday lives of American citizens.
  • Changing interpretations of constitutional values allow the Nation’s founding document to keep up with the times.

Essential Questions:
  • How has the principle of equality changed over time?
  • Why was the Fourteenth Amendment adopted?
  • Is preferential treatment consistent with the constitutional value of equality?
  • How far have we gone as a country in achieving equality for all?
  • How far do we still have to go as a country to achieve equality for all?
  • How does the Constitution keep up with the times?

Students will know:
  • Important terms regarding equality and the Fourteenth Amendment.
  • Key facts about the Fourteenth Amendment and how the Supreme Court has interpreted it over time.
  • Key Supreme Court cases on equality and the Fourteenth Amendment.

Students will be able to:
  • Recognize, define, and use vocabulary in context.
  • Research Supreme Court cases and recent news on equality and the Fourteenth Amendment to add depth to their understanding of its development over time.
  • Express their learning orally during class discussions and in writing.
  • Collaborate successfully with their peers to improve and express their learning.

Learning Activities & Assessments:

In these activities students will construct a definition of equality; trace the evolution of
equality over the course of American history; and consider how the constitutional value
of equality is applied in practical terms.

Materials and Documents

Videos and Media

  • Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter, New Hampshire attorney William Chapman, and Suffolk Law Professor Patrick Shin contrast the societal norms that existed in 1896 when the "separate but equal" doctrine was adopted with those of 1954 when segregation in public education was outlawed.

  • Suffolk Law Professor Patrick Shin explores the tension between diversity and equality as the two values relate to affirmative action in higher education.

  • Suffolk Law Professor Patrick Shin examines the historical basis for the idea of a "colorblind" Constitution, found in the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson dissent authored by Justice John Marshall Harlan.

I enjoyed the content-oriented approach. Having such an engaging speaker was awesome.
- Teacher, 2015
Looking for More Info?

Please contact us with any questions you may have about any of our programs or would like additional information.

Enews Sign-Up