“If the last few days hadn’t been dispiriting enough for those who believed the Supreme Court could still stand for reproductive freedom, equal rights for all Americans, a check on presidential power, a more humane criminal justice system and so much more, Wednesday afternoon brought the coup de grâce… Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement… It sends a stark message to the tens of millions of Americans who have long turned to the court for the vindication of many of their most cherished rights and protections: Look somewhere else. That place is the ballot box. So show up and vote.” The New York Times Editorial Board
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
“In the absence of a Supreme Court majority that will reliably protect human dignity, universal equality and women’s right to control their own bodies, it is up to Americans who cherish these values to elect politicians at every level of government who share them.
Justice Kennedy, who was nominated to the court by President Ronald Reagan and confirmed in 1988, defended these values, however imperfectly. He was the last in a line of Republican-appointed justices who moderated some of the reactionary tendencies on the court, which has now had a majority of Republican appointees for nearly half a century. All of those justices were confirmed in the days before ultraconservative activists hijacked the nomination process and ensured that only faithful right-wing ideologues would get a nod… Once [Trump] names his second pick and the Senate confirms that person, you can forget about new or enhanced protections for gays and lesbians, or saving the last shreds of affirmative action at public universities.
Longstanding precedents are now at extreme risk. Foremost among these is a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion under Roe v. Wade, which was preserved solely on the strength of Justice Kennedy’s vote… Even this scenario, of course, assumes the continued longevity of Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who provide an essential counterweight to the court’s conservative wing, but who are 79 and 85, respectively, and have endured their share of health problems…For those who face the future in fear after Wednesday, there are no easy answers — but there is a clear duty.
Do not for a moment underestimate the importance of getting out and voting in November. Four years ago, only 36 percent of Americans cast ballots in the midterm elections. Had more people showed up, the Senate may well have remained in Democratic control, Mitch McConnell would not be the majority leader and Judge Merrick Garland would now be Justice Garland. In the days and months ahead, remember this.”
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer
Directions: Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- Kennedy’s retirement is a dispiriting event in U.S. history.
- Wednesday afternoon brought the coup de grâce.
- You can forget about new or enhanced protections for many groups.
- The courts have an opportunity to further erode the wall between church and state.
- States now have the green light to promote the rights of corporations over individuals.
- Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg provide an essential counterweight to the court’s conservative wing.
- The Supreme Court operates as a crucial check in a democracy based on majority rule.
- Mitch McConnel knows he has an open road to confirming whomever he and the Federalist Society want on the bench.
- Consider a few of Justice Kennedy’s most significant majority opinions.
- Kennedy’s opinions could sometimes be vague.
Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.
Justice Kennedy, who, ___far from an ___justice — his ___could be ___and confusing, his jurisprudential commitments often unpredictable — emphasized the ___principles of ___and ___to a degree not in ___among the court’s four other conservatives.
WORD LIST: opinions, ideal, equality, dignity, basic, while, vague, evidence
Grammar Focus: Word -Recognition
Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.
He spoke/speak out forcefully on the need/needs to fix/fixes the nation’s broken/break criminal justice system, voting to strike/stroke down excessive sentence/sentences for juveniles and the intellectually disabled and to force/make states to shrink their overcrowded prisons.
III. Post Reading Activities
Discussion for Comprehension /Writing
Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.
- Why is Justice Kennedy’s leaving the Supreme Court upsetting to so many people?
- In your opinion, which groups in the U.S. would be the most concerned about losing Justice Kennedy? Provide reasons for your answers.
- How is the government organized in the United States? In your opinion is this a fair government system for all people?
- Why is it important for everyone to vote this November?
Note for help: visit Federal Government of The United States- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_government_of_the_United_States
Group Project: Creating Voting Posters
Directions: Look at the posters presented in the reading. Each group is to think about a message they would like to send to people about the importance of voting. After, design a “VOTE” poster for November 2018. Share and explain your posters with the class. Maybe place the posters around your school or neighborhood.
1-Minute Free Writing Exercise
Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading. Review the responses as a class.