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The Supreme Court Website – Changing A Student's Perspective

Teaching government can be challenging.  Yes, there are three branches of government, an executive, legislative and judicial.  The legislative branch has two houses, and all of these are designed to provide us with checks and balances for government. We can draw diagrams on our boards and walk students through the process of government.  We can even take students to our local legislatures or county commissioners meetings to see how government works.  There are plenty of real world easy to access examples except for the Supreme Court. 


How About Having Students Listen to an Oral Argument to the Supreme Course?


The highest court in the land hears on average 80 cases a year and most arguments are just over an hour.  Getting to Washington, D.C. can be a challenge, getting a seat at the court an additional challenge and understanding the legal arguments might just be impossible for our students.  Surprisingly, the Supreme Court website provides instructors with a variety of options to make the court accessible to students.  A quick tour of the website provides instructors with a PDF calendar by month that instructors can quickly be cut up into sections for group work.  Past arguments are available in a variety of formats including audio and transcripts.  Students can sit in your classroom and listen to past arguments.  If media files were used as part of a court case, they are provided for public viewing.  And the Frequently Asked Question section provides students with information about how and when cases are heard.





Do your students know that they they buy and app from Apple or Google, these company's take 30% of that purchase from the app developers? Many think this is an unfairly large amount of money. Here's an audio argument from the supreme court site entitled, Apple Vs. Pepper in which this practice is debated before the court:



The PDF transcript of this argument is attached to this post.


The possibilities are endless for class discussion, group work and assignments.  At first glance, I envisioned my classes listening to twenty minutes of court proceedings and then as their eyes glaze over asking these thought provoking questions:


  1. You mean that’s the presentation?
  2. It only lasted an hour?
  3. Where were the witnesses?
  4. Isn’t there more to it?
  5. When do they find out the ruling?


We often assume students understand how court proceedings work and spend more time talking about landmark cases.  Hearing a case in real time can generate new classroom discussions.    Check out the Supreme Court website and join the conversation.  How can you use the website to engage your students?