WHEN YOUR CIVICS TEACHER, MR. JOHNSON, GETS EXCITED ABOUT AN ISSUE, IT’S HARD TO SLOW HIM DOWN.
“The Founding Fathers were NOT time travelers. They could never have known about the kinds of terrorism threats that we face today. And they could never have known about all the different kinds of technology that we have now. Smart phones in the 1780s? I don’t think so.”
Your class is discussing the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. That’s the amendment that protects each American citizen’s right to privacy. Based on the Fourth Amendment, the government has to take very specific steps in order to legally search you or anything that you own. This was considered an important protection by the people who wrote the Constitution, but that was the age of muskets. Now we live in an age of weapons that can kill millions. Does this Fourth Amendment – written over 200 years ago – still work in our modern-day world?
“If you work for the FBI today and think an American citizen is plotting an act of terrorism, should you be able to ignore the Fourth Amendment and simply take away that person’s cell phone or their laptop to collect information from them?”
Your teacher’s asking a great question. When situations change, should we still be following a law that was written more than two centuries ago? Are the principles in the Fourth Amendment still applicable to our modern day world?
Investigate the primary sources. What evidence is there for or against allowing the right to privacy from the Fourth Amendment in different moments in U.S. history? Make your case.
Have your students take this challenge and make their case! To begin, send your students to this website with this challenge’s code.
The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution says the government has to take very specific steps in order to legally search you or anything that you own.