Week 8: Debates on Guns


Police Officer Corey Saffold from the Madison Police Department will be visiting class to discuss guns from his perspective and to answer student questions.


Team preparation for debates. Remember you may break into caucuses to develop different proposals or unite around a single one.


Debate format: each side will be given a chance to support and defend a proposal (affirmative) and to challenge a proposal (negative.) We’ll be tag-team debating so all members of your team should be prepared to speak.


Week 7: What evidence supports and refutes gun control?


Where are we at with the evidence we have collected so far? We’ll be aggregating some of the data from the readings we’ve been looking at. What are the possible perspectives and arguments on gun control? Where are we at in terms of evidence for these arguments? What data and evidence are we missing?

Gun laws in California (nytimes.com)

NRA speaks on Meet the Press


What argument do the producers of Living for 32 make? What does Colin Goddard argue should be done about guns?


Background reading from procon.org

Evidence collection for your position:

  1. Why our Gun Debate is off-target (Wall Street Journal, 2013)
  2. Second Thoughts on the Second Amendment (The Atlantic)
  3. The False Promise of Gun Control (The Atlantic, 1994)
  4. The Story of a Gun (The Atlantic, 1993)
  5. Online Ads are the latest way…(salon.com, 2013)
  6. Twelve Facts about Guns and Mass Shootings (Washington Post)
  7. Gun laws in California (nytimes.com)
  8. Do Gun Control Laws Control Guns? (National Review)
  9. Stand your Ground Laws:

West High Databases (These are directly oppositional….easy to get at the specific arguments for your side…)

Thursday & Friday

Prepare for the debate. (in LMC)


Week 6: Guns in America


1. What are the controversial questions surrounding guns in America? If you only knew __________, then you’d believe ________________ about guns. Write a preliminary paragraph about your perspective on gun ownership in America.
2. Small groups will generate the related topics and information we need to know in order to process those questions. We’ll include a look at the people/groups likely to have different perspectives.
3. Read background reading from procon.org

4. Group time for reading: how do these readings contribute to our understanding of the topic?

  1. Why our Gun Debate is off-target (Wall Street Journal, 2013)
  2. Second Thoughts on the Second Amendment (The Atlantic)
  3. The False Promise of Gun Control (The Atlantic, 1994)
  4. The Story of a Gun (The Atlantic, 1993)
  5. Online Ads are the latest way…(salon.com, 2013)
  6. Twelve Facts about Guns and Mass Shootings (Washington Post)


1. Group reading and report out. Use poster paper to collect arguments and evidence.
2. Begin watching After Newton: Guns in America. Use a t-chart to capture notes from the film and questions that it raises. Consider the categories: argument and evidence

Thursday and Friday

What types of evidence are individuals and groups using to support their arguments? Where do we stand at this point about whether gun ownership should be restricted?

We’ll be looking at a bit of the history behind gun legislation and the arguments in favor of and against gun control. We’ll be using the Issues and Controversies database from the LMC.

Extra Resources:

Political cartoons about guns

Week 5: Wrapping up Religion in Public Life


1. Hold discussion/moot court on the Van Orden v. Perry case

2. Distribute exam questions.


Dover Area High School Photo1. Watch Intelligent Design on Trial.

2. Consider the statement the Dover School Board required teachers to read:

On November 19, 2004, the Dover Area School District issued a press release stating that, commencing in January 2005, teachers would be required to read the following statement to students in the ninth-grade biology class at Dover High School:

“The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin‘s theory of evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.Because Darwin’s Theory is a theory, it is still being tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is available for students to see if they would like to explore this view in an effort to gain an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves.As is true with any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the origins of life to individual students and their families. As a standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on standards-based assessments.”
Unit One assessment. You may bring one, one-sided 3 x 5 card with you to class.
Thursday & Friday
We will be in the LMC finalizing our possible topics for the semester. You’ll be working on this ballot. today and tomorrow. You may also consider reviewing the list we looked at a couple weeks ago. Be sure to look through these sites…they are replete with possibilities!

Week 4: Religion: Context and Application


Inside/Outside discussion

  • Freedom of Expression cases
  • Establishment Clause cases

Tuesday & Wednesday

What can modern history tell us about religion in America? We’ll be watching God in America: On God and Caesar and completing a viewing guide.

Discussion of the documentary. How does this history help us understand Supreme Court decisions? Issues that arise as a result of the intersection of public life and religion.

Texas State Caitol

Thursday & Friday

1. US Supreme Court Syllabus for Van Orden v. Perry

2. Split Ruling on Ten Commandments Displays

3. Van Orden v. Perry (2004)…from Oyez

4. Why Breyers was wrong in Van Orden

5. Supreme Court on a Shoestring

Listen to oral arguments for Van Orden 

Week 3: Role of Religion in Public Life


1. Writing sample. JQ. What are you initial reactions to religion in society? What are the various perspectives that you know about?

2. Where are the pressing and controversial issues?

  1. Prayers in government schools? (foxnews.com)
  2. Is teaching yoga in schools too religious? (channel3000.com)
  3. Sultaana Lakiana Myke Freeman case, 2006
  4. SCOTUS hears Religious Freedom Case  (wsj.com)


1. Understanding the Court Systems

  1. US Courts of Appeals and US Federal District Courts System Map
  2. Wisconsin Court System and map
  3. How a case gets to the Wisconsin Supreme Court | Wisconsin Circuit Courts
    • concern a significant constitutional (federal or state) question;
    • or once decided, will develop, clarify, or harmonize existing law(s);
    • or have not been decided by the Court before; or
      are of statewide importance;
    • or present a question of law that will likely reoccur unless resolved by the Court;
    • or have resulted in conflicting decisions in the lower courts;
    • or although previously decided, may be ripe for reexamination due to changing times
      and circumstances.
  4. Comparison of the federal vs. Wisconsin court systems

2. Create outline for essay on religion in public life. Due Wednesday.


Take the Pew Religion in Public Life Quiz.

1. Upcoming religious issues in the SCOTUS.

2. What do the Free Exercise and Establishment clauses say?

3. How might to Court rule on the upcoming case Town of Greece v. Galloway?


1. Discussion on preliminary position papers.

2. Continue discussion and readings about Town of Greece v Galloway. Read this summary.

Thursday/Friday (in LMC)

1. Gather details on significant court cases involving religion in public life (uva.edu)

2. Use the Oyez project to read the actual opinions.

Week 2: Argument Frameworks


1. Learn about the Toulmin model of argumentation

2. Read Leaving a Tip: A Custom on Need of Changing? (nytimes.com) Complete text mark-up (symbol/color coded for claim, support, and warrant) and vocabulary (fabulous or unclear). Due Wednesday 9/11.


1. Look through a wide variety of web sites and cull together possible social issues for processing this semester. Each group of students (by last name) will be reviewing different sites. Try not to duplicate…we want to cast a really big net.

2. For the social issues you find, write out a possible policy claim that could be made while processing that issue.

3. The list of sites to look through is here.


1. Sort through the possible social issues you found Tuesday. We’ll be organizing and categorizing these in small groups. What are some possible policy claims?

2.Discuss the “Leaving a Tip” article. What were its claims? supports? warrants?

3. Write a persuasive paragraph indicating your position on the tipping issue.

4. What are the strongest supports for two different claims on tipping?


1. Upcoming religious issues in the SCOTUS.

2. Prayers in government schools? (foxnews.com)