Do you use document-based questions in your classroom?
This summer the Bill of Rights Institute is blogging a document-based question on the Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines (1969). Each weekly post will feature an excerpted document related to the case, along with some questions to guide your thinking on it. Each document should be used to address the question: “Evaluate the extent to which the First Amendment should protect symbolic speech, and the degree to which that protection should be guaranteed to students in public school.”
Check out our previous posts for a case background and document #1, document #2, West Virginia v. Barnette, document #3, a picture of Vietnam War protestors outside the White House, and document #4, a collection of “Hate Mail” received by the Tinker Family.
Today’s document is Oral Arguments from the Tinker’s Case, Tinker v. Des Moines, 1969 – Number 5:
Justice White: Why did they wear the armbands in the class, to express that message [of protest against the Vietnam War]?
Johnston [representing the Tinkers]: To express the message.
White: And [for others] to understand it?
Johnston: And to understand it.
White: And to absorb that message?
Johnston: And to absorb the message.
White: …while they [other students] are studying arithmetic or mathematics, they are supposed to be taking in this message about Vietnam?
Johnston: …the message the students chose in this particular incident was specifically designed in such a way that it would not cause that kind of disruption. None of the teachers testified [of disruption] at the hearing in the district court…
White: Physically it wouldn’t make a noise. It wouldn’t case a commotion, but don’t you think that it would cause some people to direct their attention to the armband and the Vietnam War and think about that rather than what they are … supposed to be thinking about in the classroom?
Johnston: …It might for a few moments have done that, and I think it perhaps might have distracted some students just as many other things do in the classroom which are allowed from time to time…
Think about it:
Compare Mr. Johnston’s explanation of the students’ intentions to the definition of symbolism in Document 2.
How does this impact your answer to the DBQ question: “Evaluate the extent to which the First Amendment should protect symbolic speech, and the degree to which that protection should be guaranteed to students in public school.”
Check back each week to see the next document and how it might change your thinking on this important question that affects all public school teachers and students in the U.S.!
If you are enjoying this DBQ – be sure to check out our curriculum Supreme Court DBQs: Exploring the Cases the Changed History.
Posted in A More Perfect Blog