Shall We Abandon the Bill of Rights?

Shall We Abandon the Bill of Rights?
Caroline Harrison: Law, Politics and Govt

Skill: Middle School
Time Required: Three to four class periods


After the Civil War, as Americans increasingly moved to settle the west, the effort to win the land from Native Americans was ongoing and often brutal; in most cases, the belief was that Native Americans had no rights at all.  In addition, African Americans and women were continuing their struggle for equal rights.  To her credit, Caroline Harrison served as a progressive First Lady; one of her accomplishments was to see that the new medical school at The Johns Hopkins University would admit women.  Many of the rights that all Americans now share are contained in the Bill of Rights.  What would it be like if we didn’t have those rights?


The purpose of this webquest is the development of a knowledge and an appreciation of the Bill of Rights.    

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet; access to print reference materials


1.  Set this imaginary scene for your students:       

You have heard that a committee in Washington has met and decided to do away with the Bill of Rights.  The committee also announced that it will hear testimony from anyone wishing to speak in defense of the Bill of Rights and argue to keep it.  As a citizen, you are shocked and horrified.  Immediately you call your Congressman and ask him what he is planning to do about this situation.  He says he represents you, what position do you want him to take?  After doing your research, your team will meet with the committee to give testimony on why you think the Bill of Rights should be retained intact, and if you believe that there is a reason to increase these rights in any way. 

2.  Assemble four teams of equal size, if possible, to prepare to testify before the Congressional committee.  The four teams, their responsibilities, and possible websites are:

Biographers—your job is to research James Madison, presenting his role in submitting the Bill of Rights to the Congress in 1789.  Was he in favor of the issue?  Why did he propose it?

Historians—your job is to research the actual language of the Bill of Rights.  How many are there?  What do they guarantee to American citizens? 

Citizens—your job is to consider the rights guaranteed you under the Bill of Rights and to imagine what life would be like without them.  Be prepared to support your arguments.  There is little specific information to assist you so speculate.

Students—your job is to consider the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees that the government cannot engage in unreasonable search and seizure.  How does this right apply to students?  Can your lockers be searched without probable cause?  Can your purses or wallets be searched and taken?  How does this Amendment relate to rules against personal property that you bring to school? 

3.  Prepare a presentation before the Congressional committee; use any visual or print artifacts you need.

Extending the Lesson:

Sources & Resources:

Additional Web Source:  . (Click on "United States Constitution")

This lesson was adapted from a lesson plan developed in the Plainfield, Indiana school district by Bette Brooks, Kent State University. (see