Drafting a Student Bill of Rights

High school
Government and U.S. history
One class period
Have class view "Yosemite" in Freedom, Act 1, 1:04 on The American Promise videotape

Divide the class into boys and girls. Ask each group to write a bill of 10 essential rights for their own sex.

Have each group nominate a speaker to present their bill of rights to the class. Post both lists.

Have the whole class discuss the two bills. What are the differences and similarities?

Ask the class to prepare a single list of 10 rights for the whole group, listed in order of importance, from most important to least.

Post the list. Then post our national Bill of Rights. Have the class compare the two. Which constitutional rights did your class include? Which did they leave out? Which did they add? You might ask your students to speculate why certain rights -- those that were important to the Founders -- weren't important enough for them to include.

Expand the exercise by asking the class to develop a bill of rights for your school or community or to update the Bill of Rights for America in the 21st century. You can also use this exercise to lead into the "Responsibility" Act of the series by asking the class to write a bill of responsibilities to accompany their bill of rights.

Douglas E. Miller
Fremont High School
Sunnyvale, Calif.

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