Analyze the Equal Protection Clause and affirmative action
June 25, 2003
Web posted at: 7:29 PM EDT (2329 GMT)
After students read "Supreme Court decision upholds and limits affirmative action," present the following questions and activity:
1. What is affirmative action? How has affirmative action been used in educational institutions? Who has benefited from this policy? Explain the decisions the U.S. Supreme Court recently made regarding affirmative action. Why are many referring to this as a "split decision"?
2. What is the Equal Protection Clause? In what Amendment to the U.S. Constitution can this clause be found?
3. Explain why both supporters and opponents of affirmative action saw reason to celebrate these Supreme Court decisions. Why are many officials comparing these decisions to the so-called Bakke decision of 1978? Who is Antonin Scalia? What was his opinion on these decisions? Do you agree or disagree with his assessment that there will be more lawsuits and confrontation as a result of the court's "split decision"? Explain.
4. In class discussion, ask students to define the terms "diversity," "affirmative action" and "quota". If necessary, refer them to dictionaries or online resources for definitions of these terms. Discuss the meanings of these terms in the context of racial issues in education and the workplace. To help students understand the different opinions behind consideration of race in college admissions, discuss how each of the three elements (diversity, affirmative action, and quotas) has played a role in admissions and the rationale for support of or opposition to each.
5. Direct students to copies of the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment. Have them read the text of this amendment. Have students refer back to the story and online resources to familiarize themselves with the Equal Protection Clause. Ask: Which sections of the 14th Amendment are key parts of the Equal Protection Clause? (Sections 1 and 5). Why do you think the Supreme Court continually referred to the Equal Protection Clause in these decisions on affirmative action? Conclude by having students write position papers outlining their views on the Supreme Court's "split decision" on affirmative action, citing whether or not they believe the court's decisions support or run counter to the Equal Protection Clause.