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With Liberty and Justice for All
by Lena Morreale Scott for Street Law, Inc.

Intro   Learning Objectives   Standards   Media Components   Materials   Prep for Teachers

Students will struggle with the same challenges faced by the Supreme Court -- how to balance the rights of individuals to exercise their civil liberties and the needs and goals of others in society. Students will reflect on their own ideas of liberty, and learn how to define and identify civil liberties. Through a historic case study involving the Pledge of Allegiance, they will analyze First Amendment rights in light of laws passed to increase citizenship, knowledge of our country, and patriotism.

**Note on spelling: This lesson references the 1940 case Minersville School District v. Gobitis. The plaintiffs in the case were William and Lillian Gobitas, but a clerk's spelling error changed the case's official name as above. Therefore, when referencing the Gobitas children, the lesson uses the correct spelling of the family name, but when referencing the court case, it uses the spelling used in court documents.

Grade Level: 9-12

Time Allotment: 90+ minutes (additional time may be necessary for further exploration)

This plan includes lessons for two 45-minute classes and two optional extension activities.

Revelevant Subjects:
  • Civics / Government

  • United States History

  • Law

  • English / Language Arts

Students will be able to:

  • define the terms "civil rights" and "civil liberties"

  • identify basic civil liberties

  • describe how the Supreme Court decided two cases when individual rights conflicted with societal goals: Minersville School District v. Gobitis (1940) and West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943)


National Standards for History in Schools
Available online at

Standard 2: Historical Comprehension
A. Identify the author or source of the historical document or narrative and assess its credibility.
B. Reconstruct the literal meaning of a historical passage.
C. Identify the central question(s) the historical narrative addresses.
D. Differentiate between historical facts and historical interpretations.
E. Read historical narratives imaginatively.
F. Appreciate historical perspectives.
G. Draw upon data in historical maps.
H. Utilize visual, mathematical, and quantitative data.

National Standards for History in Schools Available online at

Era 9 Postwar United States (1945 to Early 1970s)
Standard 1: The economic boom and social transformation of the postwar United States
Standard 2: How the Cold War and conflicts in Korea and Vietnam influenced domestic and international politics
Standard 3: Domestic policies after World War II
Standard 4: The struggle for racial and gender equality and the extension of civil liberties

National Standards for Civics and Government
Available online at

I. What Are the Foundations of the American Political System?
A. What is the American idea of constitutional government?
B. What are the distinctive characteristics of American society?
C. What is American political culture?
D. What values and principles are basic to American constitutional democracy?

Standards for the English Language Arts
Available online at

3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meanings and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).

4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.

7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.

8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.



PBS series THE SUPREME COURT, Episode 3: "A Nation of Liberties"

Segment #1: "Why We Fight"
The Second World War changes American ideas about democracy and liberty. (2:32)

Segment #2: "Minersville School District v. Gobitis"
The case of Minersville School District v. Gobitis. (4:56)


  • PBS series THE SUPREME COURT, Episode 3: "A Nation of Liberties"

  • DVD player/television

  • overhead projector or blackboard

  • newsprint or flip-chart paper

  • markers


  • Handout and Transparency #1: Civil Liberties and Civil Rights -- Download

  • Handout #2: Viewer's Guide for "A Nation of Liberties" -- Democracy and World War II -- Download

  • Pledge of Allegiance (Teacher Version) -- Download

  • Handout #3: Viewing Guide for "A Nation of Liberties" -- The Gobitas Children and the Pledge -- Download

  • Handout #4: West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943) -- Download

  • (Optional) Handout #5: Tracing the Evolution of the Pledge of Allegiance -- Download


  1. Prepare all necessary materials. The transparencies and student handouts can be found above. If possible, copy each of the handouts on to a different color of paper. This will help you and your students keep track of which handout they should be working with at a given time.

    Download and print the page labeled "Pledge of Allegiance Teacher Version." Make several copies of the original and cut them up so that each student will have a copy.

  2. Download the video segments used in the lesson, or cue the film to the first segment, "Why We Fight." This segment starts at the very beginning of Episode 3 when the text "Why We Fight" is seen on the screen.

  3. Decide if you have time and want to teach either of the extension activities.

  4. If you prefer to predetermine student groups and partner sets for your class, review the lesson plan in advance to find out when groups or partners are necessary and preassign students to work together.

  5. Write the following prompt on the board or an overhead transparency:

    ... with liberty and justice for all.

    If possible, keep it covered until class begins.

  6. If your classroom does not already have an American flag in it, get one for this lesson. It will be used on day two.

  7. Consider inviting a resource person to help you teach this lesson. Appropriate people could include a lawyer, judge, law school student, or a legislator.

Like most law-related education lessons, this lesson can be enhanced by inviting resource people from the community to help you teach. Involving resource people is an element of "best practices" in law-related education. They can make the lessons more interesting and provide personal knowledge of the topic. Research also indicates that adult-student bonding [with resource people] is a key for helping some young people overcome risk factors.

To be most effective, community resource people should be well prepared and integrated into interactive class activities. They should not simply lecture. To that end, be sure to send a lesson plan to your resource people in advance and discuss how you will co-teach the lesson.