© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Teaching Guide

Teaching Equal Protection

Save the best for 14th.


While the Declaration of Independence stated that all men were created equal, no one really meant it until the 14th Amendment to the Constitution in 1868. You want to make sure your students take this seriously today, unlike the Founding Fathers who waited about a hundred years.

In this guide you will find

  • quizzes to help the students to read between the lines of historical documents.
  • historical connections to the Civil Rights Movement.
  • modern citations showing that people still argue about what "equal protection" really means.

Not to toot our own horn, but all teaching guides aren't created equal. This one is better than the rest.

What's Inside Shmoop's Civics Teaching Guides

Shmoop is a labor of love from folks who love to teach. Our teaching guides will help you supplement in-classroom learning with fun, engaging, and relatable learning materials that bring civics to life.

Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 4-10 Common Core-aligned activities (including quotation, image, and document analysis) to complete in class with your students, with detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes to be sure students are looking at the material through various lenses.
  • Resources to help make the topic feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop’s teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the topic and how you can overcome the hurdles.

Instructions for You

In Brown v. Board of Education, Chief Justice Earl Warren drew considerable criticism for the range of reasons he offered in ordering the desegregation of America’s schools. In this exercise your students will examine one of the most memorable and controversial lines from that ruling and consider whether the Court should draw upon such logic in interpreting the law.

  1. Show your students this excerpt from Warren’s opinion and ask them whether they agree with its logic.
    • Does separation contribute to a sense of inferiority?
    • Are the effects enduring?
    • Does separation at a very early age leave scars that last a lifetime?
  2. Next ask them if it this sort of analysis should be a part of the Court’s interpretation of the law.
    • Are Warren’s views drawn from legal theory or judicial precedent?
    • Do they belong in this opinion?
    • Should the Court draw upon psychological and sociological theory in applying the law to contemporary questions?
    • Is this part of the Court’s expertise?
    • Is this part of the Court’s responsibility?
    • Should the Court have ordered desegregation?
    • Does the legal reasoning matter?

(Lesson aligned with CA 12th grade American government standards 12.2.1, 12.4.5, 12.5.1)

Instructions for Your Students

In 1954, Chief Justice Earl Warren ordered the desegregation of America’s schools. In explaining the Court’s decision he wrote:

"To separate [black children]from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone."

  • What do you think of Warren’s reasoning?
  • Is he right?
  • Does segregation contribute to a sense of inferiority?
  • Are the effects enduring?
  • Warren’s statement drew a lot of criticism. Why do you think that was the case?

Already have a license?
CLICK HERE to sign in!

Good things come
in affordable packages.


Check out all the different parts of our corresponding learning guide.

Intro    Just the Facts    Key Concepts    History    Timeline    Quotes    Questions    Photos    Best of the Web    Citations    
back to top