Designed for high school students and motivated lay readers, this book will be an introduction to the rights held by American citizens under the U.S. Constitution as explored through a series of historical case studies. Each chapter will use dramatic narrative to illustrate a right in action. Most examples, but not all, will use U.S. Supreme Court cases to focus on a time when the right in question received its modern interpretation. The aim, however, will be to use each chapter to discuss how the right applies today and how courts and other interpreters seek to balance this right with important societal concerns, such as the need for order and public safety.
The book will begin with a 20-page chapter on how we arrived at our modern concept of rights. The major interpretive thread will be the continual struggle to define limits on the power of the state. The chapter will introduce several key themes: our understanding of rights has emerged from history (experience); our definition and interpretation of rights is always evolving; concepts of rights are always under contention; and various actors-legislatures, executives, and courts-compete to be the final interpreter of our rights. American constitutional rights generally fall into one of three groups-rights of democracy, that is, rights required for American democracy to work effectively; rights of the accused, or due process rights that assure a fair trial for individuals accused of crimes; and other rights of persons, including the right to privacy. A fourth category of rights are not constitutional per se, but often we conceive of them as such even though often they are statutory rights, such as the right to education... A concluding chapter will discuss other rights that may evolve as a result of current political and social movements, such as the right to health care.
Along with Our Constitution and Pivotal Supreme Court Cases (working title), this book has the potential to become a core text for the annual observance of Constitution Day on September 17, which is mandated by Congress for all educational institutions receiving federal funds.