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The Constitutional Sources Project Constitution Week Celebration with David McCullough

May 12, 2011
I encourage everyone to attend this wonderful event. The Constitutional Sources Project cordially invites you and 6-9 students of your choice to listen to America’s finest storyteller, David McCullough, at the National Archives William G. McGowan Theater on Tuesday September 13, 2011. Through the Verizon Foundation’s generous sponsorship, Mr. McCullough will teach a diverse group of teachers, students and community leaders about the 1787 Constitutional Convention in an effort to help America’s youth understand the dynamic collaborative process which elevated the creation of government from violent regime change to constitution-creation by the rule of law. His address will be recorded and made available on ConSource.org and through Channel One Connection, a network of 400,000 teachers and 6 million students nationwide, for teachers’ use on September 16 to meet federal requirements to teach the Constitution on Constitution Day. After his remarks, teachers and students may participate in document analysis exercises in the Boeing Learning Center of the National Archives and tour other exhibits. The program begins at 10:00 a.m. Please be seated by 9:45 a.m. The Constitutional Sources Project has created the most comprehensive free online library of primary sources related to the Constitution and indexed by constitutional clause. Students, teachers, scholars, attorneys, judges, lawmakers, and most importantly “We the People” can access it freely at www.ConSource.org. Please RSVP by June 1, 2011 to me at eleesha.tucker -at- ConSource.org indicating (1) the number of students you will be bringing to Mr. McCullough’s address (2) if you will involve your students in a 30 minute Boeing Learning Center document analysis activity and (3) if you will explore exhibits at the National Archives including the Charters of Freedom at the Rotunda.

ABA Journal Cover Story on Kids Flunking Civics

May 9, 2011
The ABA Journal has a cover story feature on the sad state of civic education in America’s youth.
Only one state deserved a rating of A when it came to teaching its students American history, according to a recent study. Most states fall in the category of “mediocre to awful.” The study ranked history standards in 49 states and the District of Columbia (Rhode Island has no mandatory history standards, only suggested guidelines) for “content and rigor” and “clarity and specificity” on a scale of A to F. Only South Carolina got straight A’s.
This lack of knowledge translates to a failure of today’s generation to participate in our Republic.
According to the report, students also are less interested in public or political issues than were previous generations, and they exhibit gaps in their knowledge of fundamental democratic principles and processes. “As a result,” the report said, “many young Americans are not prepared to participate fully in our democracy now and when they become adults.”
Indeed, this problem is not limited to students (namely because today’s adults were yesterday’s kids).
A 2005 survey by the ABA, for example, found that nearly half of all Americans were unable to correctly identify the three branches of government. A FindLaw survey that same year found that only 57 percent of Americans could name any Supreme Court justice.
These numbers show how important our work at the Harlan Institute is. We take great pride in finding new and innovative ways to teach students about our most fundamental laws.

High School students, inspired by Harlan Institute Lesson on Snyder v. Phelps, Protest Against Westboro Baptists

May 7, 2011
In Manilla, Iowa, the Westboro Baptists–the victors of Snyder v. Phelpsprotested the funeral of slain soldier Staff Sergeant James Justice. In response, students in Erin Olson’s AP Language and Composition class at Sioux Central Community School in Sioux Rapids, IA  started a protest of their own. The students had studied Snyder v. Phelps in class using Harlan Institute lessons in order to make predictions on FantasySCOTUS.org. Inspired by this case, the students took matters into their own hands. Ms. Olson tells us that her students entered her second period class disgusted and were quite disturbed that the Westboro Baptist Church would be protesting at the funeral of Staff Sergeant James Justice. She was amazed by their passion. Ms. Olson found that “their understanding of the Westboro Baptist Church’s platform was fostered during their reading for the Supreme Court Fantasy League created by the Harlan Institute.” On Veteran’s Day, her students Skyped with a Harlan volunteer lawyer throughHarlan Connect. The volunteer led a discussion of the legal issues surrounding Snyder v. Phelps. Students wrote about the case, but as the year progressed, Olson noticed that the case kept coming into her class discussions. Her students “understood the need to protect the freedom of speech, but they were still troubled with the moral ethical issues surrounding the case.” On May 4, 2011, she saw her students were enthusiastic about sharing their support for the family of Staff Sergeant Justice. They organized themselves. She “watched in awe of their passion driven learning.” They planned a lunch announcement, lead the Pledge of Allegiance, organized the playing of Taps, built a platform, and created sign. Due the high winds, “they were concerned about their paper signs blowing away, so they asked for permission to put posts into the ground, so they built a platform!” Students organized cameras to get footage of the process and work. Students contacted media. Ms. Olson tells us that “there are no words to express my pride in each and every one of my students. This is what learning is about. They are amazing, and I am so fortunate. Those kids wanted the family of James Justice to know their hearts hurt for the loss, and they support our troops.”
Thank you for your story Ms. Olson. At the Harlan Institute we strive to make the Supreme Court and Constitution come alive. Stories like this remind us how important Supreme Court decisions are, and how they affect each and every one of us.

A Crisis in Civic Education

May 4, 2011
Today the Department of Education released the Civics 2010 Report Card, based on a civics exam administered to students nationwide in the 4th, 8th,and 12th grade. The Times reports on some of the findings:
Fewer than half of American eighth graders knew the purpose of the Bill of Rights on the most recent national civics examination, and only one in 10 demonstrated acceptable knowledge of the checks and balances among the legislative, executive and judicial branches, according to test results released on Wednesday. At the same time, three-quarters of high school seniors who took the test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, were unable to demonstrate civic skills like identifying the effect of United States foreign policy on other nations or naming a power granted to Congress by the Constitution. … Average fourth-grade scores on the test’s 300-point scale rose slightly since the exam was last administered, in 2006, to 157 from 154. Average eighth-grade scores were virtually unchanged at 151. The scores of high school seniors — students who are either eligible to vote or about to be — dropped to 148 from 151. Those scores mean that about a quarter of 4th- and 12th-grade students, and about one-fifth of 8th graders ranked at the proficient or advanced levels.
Justice O’Connor, a champion of civic education, sounded the alarm about the crisis we have in civice ducation:
“Today’s NAEP results confirm that we have a crisis on our hands when it comes to civics education,” said Sandra Day O’Connor, the former Supreme Court justice.
I have started to go through the lengthy report, and will blog more about its findings, and how the goals of the Harlan Institute help to create awareness about civic education.

New Article: FantasySCOTUS. Crowdsourcing a Prediction Market for the Supreme Court

May 1, 2011
I am pleased to announce that FantasySCOTUS: Crowdsourcing a Prediction Market for the Supreme Court, co-authored with Adam Aft and Corey Carpenter, is on SSRN. This article analyzes the predictions made during the October 2009 Term onFantasySCOTUS.net. Based on this data, FantasySCOTUS accurately predicted a majority of the cases, and the top-ranked experts predicted over 75% of the cases correctly. Additionally, we compared our predictions to the path breaking Supreme Court Forecasting ProjectThe FantasySCOTUS top three experts not only outperformed the Forecasting Project’s experts, but they also slightly outperformed the Project’s model—75.7% compared with 75%., which developed a supercrunching algorithm to predict cases based on a certain cases characteristics. Finally, we assessed whether the Supreme Court prediction market merely mirrors the media—that is, do people make predictions based on coverage about the cases in the news and blogosphere. Using an expansive searching process—that considered both old school, and new school media—we found a correlation between media coverage and predictions. This was a very fun paper to write, and reveals great insights about how people perceive the Court. Here is the abstract:
Every year the Supreme Court of the United States captivates the minds and curiosity of millions of Americans—yet the inner-workings of the Court are not fully transparent. The Court, without explanation, only decides the cases it wishes. They deliberate and assign authorship in private. The Justices hear oral arguments, and without notice, issue an opinion months later. They sometimes offer enigmatic clues during oral arguments through their questions. Between arguments and the day the Court issues an opinion, the outcome of a case is essentially a mystery. Sometimes the outcome falls along predictable lines; other times the outcome is a complete surprise. Court-watchers frequently make predictions about the cases in articles, on blogs, and elsewhere. Individually, some may be right, some may be wrong, but on the aggregate, these predictions tend to be correct. Until recently, there was not a way to pool together this collective wisdom, and generate accurate real-time predictions for all cases pending before the United States Supreme Court. Now there is such a tool. FantasySCOTUS.net from the Harlan Institute: the Internet’s premier Supreme Court Fantasy League, and the first crowdsourced prediction market for jurisprudential speculation. During the October 2009 Supreme Court term, the 5,000 members made over 11,000 predictions for all 81 cases decided. Based on this data, FantasySCOTUS accurately predicted a majority of the cases, and the top-ranked experts predicted over 75% of the cases correctly. With this combined knowledge, we can now have a method to determine with a degree of certainty how the Justices will decide cases before they do. This essay explores the wisdom of the crowds in this prediction market and assesses the accuracy of FantasySCOTUS’ predictions This essay presents the first detailed analysis, and comparison of this path breaking Supreme Court Forecasting Project, documented in a 2004 Columbia Law Review article. The Project developed a sophisticated algorithm and, utilizing decision-trees, predicted how the Justices would decide cases based on certain characteristics of a case—such as circuit of origin, type of case, and the political ideology of the case. To test the power of their model, the organizers of the Forecasting Project assembled a cadre of Supreme Court experts, litigators, and academics to make predictions about the same cases. During the October 2002 Term, the Project’s model predicted 75% of the cases correctly, which was more accurate than the Forecasting Project’s experts, who only predicted 59.1% of the cases correctly. The FantasySCOTUS experts predicted 64.7% of the cases correctly, surpassing the Forecasting Project’s Experts, though the difference was not statistically significant. The Gold, Silver, and Bronze medalists in FantasySCOTUS scored staggering accuracy rates of 80%, 75% and 72% respectively (an average of 75.7%). The FantasySCOTUS top three experts not only outperformed the Forecasting Project’s experts, but they also slightly outperformed the Project’s model—75.7% compared with 75%. Finally, this essay assesses whether a Supreme Court prediction market merely mirrors the media—that is, do people make predictions based on coverage about the cases in the news and blogosphere. To complete this assessment, we searched several sources for stories about the ten cases we considered—the ALLNEWS database on Westlaw, the Legal US News database on LexisNexis, as well as a custom Google search engine we programmed that sifts through the 2010 ABA Journal Blawg 100. Using this expansive searching process—that considered both old school, and new school media—we found a correlation between media coverage and predictions. The inner-workings of the Supreme Court of the United States are shrouded in secrecy. From the first Monday in October to the last week in June, the Justices operate behind-the-scenes to determine some of the most important issues in our society. Now FantasySCOTUS can provide accurate, real-time predictions how the Court will decide these cases. The FantasySCOTUS crowdsourced prediction market provides an unprecedented insight into the decision-making of the United States Supreme Court.

FantasySCOTUS.net Law School Leaderboard – 4/26/11

April 26, 2011
Columbia. LSU, and NYU are neck and neck for the top three slots. Sign up today!
1 .Columbia 21 Members 2590
2 .Louisiana State 23 Members 2500 Join
3 .New York University 38 Members 2480 Join
4 .Thomas M. Cooley 31 Members 1850 Join
5 .St. Thomas (minnesota) 12 Members 1740 Join
6 .Michigan 17 Members 1450 Join
7 .Virginia 20 Members 1340 Join
8 .Loyola – New Orleans 11 Members 1230 Join
9 .Campbell 8 Members 1200 Join
10 .Georgetown 42 Members 1100 Join
11 .Charleston 15 Members 1050 Join
12 .Miami 20 Members 970 Join
13 .District Of Columbia 11 Members 920 Join
14 .Minnesota 8 Members 850 Join
15 .Baltimore 22 Members 840 Join
16 .Missouri – Columbia 13 Members 810 Join
16 .Santa Clara 16 Members 810 Join
17 .Saint Louis 26 Members 790 Join
18 . Other Law School 116 Members 730 Join
19 .Brooklyn 33 Members 710 Join
20 .Regent 6 Members 700 Join

Over 1 million students K-12 nationwide take online courses

April 6, 2011
The New York Times has a fascinating piece about the explosion in schools permitting their students to take classes online. Here are some of the great statistics about this continuing trend:
In Idaho, the state superintendent of education plans to push a requirement that high-school students take four or more online courses, following a bill that passed the Legislature last week to provide every student with a laptop, paid for from a state fund for educators’ salaries. Chicago and New York City have introduced pilot online learning programs. In New York, Innovation Zone, or iZone, includes online makeup and Advanced Placement courses at 30 high schools, as well as personalized after-school computer drills in math and English for elementary students. The virtual high school says its list of client schools has grown to 770, up 34 percent in two years, because of local budget cuts. Nationwide, an estimated 1.03 million students at the K-12 level took an online course in 2007-8, up 47 percent from two years earlier, according to the Sloan Consortium, an advocacy group for online education. About 200,000 students attend online schools full time, often charter schoolsthat appeal to home-schooling families, according to another report.
Additionally, online courses can expose students to classes that local teachers simply cannot teach:
Reza Namin, superintendent of schools in Westbrook, Me., which faces a $6.5 million budget deficit, said he could not justify continuing to pay a Chinese language teacher for only 10 interested students. But he was able to offer Chinese online through the Virtual High School Global Consortium, a nonprofit school based in Massachusetts.
The Harlan Institute has been at the forefront of the development of free online classes, and looks forward to helping to promote this wonderful educational experience for students across the country.

FantasySCOTUS.net Predictions for 4/4/11

April 4, 2011
Here are the latest predictions from the FantasySCOTUS.net prediction tracker for the 4/4/11 Supreme Court session.
Case Name FantasySCOTUS Prediction Outcome Date Decided Prediction Details
Talk America v. Michigan Bell Affirm Details
US v. Tohono O’odham Nation Affirm Details
Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association Affirm Details
Sossamon v. Texas Affirm Details
Arizona Christian Tuition v. Winn Reverse Details
Cullen v. Pinholster Reverse Details
AT&T v. Concepcion Affirm Details
Flores-Villar v. US Affirm Details
Amara v. CIGNA Reverse Details
Schwarzenegger v. Plata Affirm Details
Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy v. Stewart Affirm Details
Kentucky v. King Reverse Details
Janus Capital v. 1st Derivative Traders Reverse Details
Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting Affirm Details
General Dynamics Corp. v. US Reverse Details
The Boeing Company v. US Reverse Details
Montana v. Wyoming and North Dakota Affirm Details
Goodyear Lux. Tires, SA v. Brown Reverse Details
J. McIntyre Machinery v. Nicastro Affirm Details
Sykes v. US Reverse Details
Smith v. Bayer Corp. Reverse Details
Stern v. Marshall Affirm Details
US v. Tinklenberg Reverse Details
Bond v. United States Reverse Details
Global-Tech Appliances v. SEB S.A. Affirm Details
Freeman v. US Reverse Details
DePierre v. United States Affirm Details
Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University v. Roche Molecular Systems, Inc. Affirm Details
Schindler Elevator Corporation v. US ex rel. Kirk Affirm Details
Alford v. Greene Reverse Details
Camreta v. Greene Reverse Details
Bullcoming v. New Mexico Reverse Details
Ashcroft v. al-Kidd Reverse Details
Davis. v. United States Affirm Details
Fox, v. Vice Affirm Details
Duryea v. Guarnieri Reverse Details
Turner v. Rogers Reverse Details
J. D. B. v. North Carolina Affirm Details
McComish v. Bennett Reverse Details
Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett Reverse Details
CSX Transportation v. McBride Affirm Details
Wal-Mart v. Dukes Reverse Details
Isiogu v. Michigan Bell Affirm Details
PLIVA Inc. v. Mensing Affirm Details
Actavis Elizabeth, L.L.C. v. Mensing Reverse Details
Actavis v. Demahy Reverse Details
Microsoft v. i4i Limited Partnership Affirm Details
Tapia v. U.S. Affirm Details
American Electric Power Co., Inc. v. Connecticut Affirm Details
United States v. Jicarilla Apache Nation Affirm Details
McNeill v. United States Affirm Details
Sorrell v. IMS Health Inc. Affirm Details
Nevada Commission on Ethics v. Carrigan Reverse Details
Madison County v. Oneida Indian Nation Affirm Details
Fowler v. United States Affirm Details

Sign up for FantasySCOTUS before April 5, 2011, and Receive 50 Westlaw Reward Points

April 1, 2011

Constitution Land – A Theme Park from the Harlan Institute

April 1, 2011

Constitution Land – A Theme Park from the Harlan Institute

Release: April 1, 2011 Media Contact: Josh Blackman (202) 294-9003, JBlackman@HarlanInstitute.org. Constitution Land, a planned theme park from the Harlan Institute, will immerse “we the people” in the Constitution of the United States. Through virtual reality simulators, thrill rides, and entertaining shows, visitors will be able to experience our Constitution, and the Supreme Court, unlike ever before. “Constitution Land will be a one-of-a-kind experience,” said Josh Blackman, President of the Harlan Institute. “Only the Harlan Institute, and its innovative approach to civic education could create a theme park to inspire students of all ages to learn more our great Charter.” The Harlan Institute, in consultation with leading academics, historians, engineers, and theme park enthusiasts, has prepared the plans for this groundbreaking education destination. In addition to exhilarating thrill rides based on landmark Supreme Court cases, Constitution Land will feature virtual reality simulators that explore how cases developed, and what will become of our law. Finally, shows, and first-rate accommodations will make a visit to Constitution Land a must for anyone who wants to learn more about the supreme law of the land. Constitution Land’s planned attractions include:

Virtual Reality Simulators

  • FantasySCOTUS: Think you know how the Justices will vote on a current case? Sharpen your wits and compete in FantasySCOTUS, the Harlan Institute’s Supreme Court Fantasy League.
  • The “10th Justice” Experience: What would have happened if the Supreme Court decided a case differently? Marshall ordered Madison to deliver Marbury’s commission?  Dred Scott was found to be a citizen? Homer Plessy was not forced to ride in the segregated car?  This simulator explores these constitutional what ifs.
  • The Originalist Time Machine: What would James Madison think about violent video games, gun violence, or mandating the eating of broccoli? With the Originalist Time Machine, you can ask Founding Fathers avatars–which are programmed based on their writings and philosophies–what they think about contemporary constitutional questions.
  • Scrutiny Land: Witness first-hand deprivations of liberty, and determine what tier of scrutiny is appropriate, and whether the act was unconstitutional.

Thrill Rides

  • Marbury v. Madison Dueling Roller-Coasters: Learn about President John Adams’ midnight appointees, and John Marshall’s failure to timely deliver Marbury’s commission on this speedy coaster that goes from zero to judicial review in (article) 3 seconds.
  • Gibbons v. Ogden Flume Ride: Get wet in interstate commerce as you traverse the treacherous waters between New York and New Jersey.
  • The Zones of Twilight Steel Mill of Terror: Based on Justice Jackson’s famed zone of twilight framework from the Steel Seizure case, this thrilling ride flies you through a haunted steel mill during the height of the Korean War.


  • Interrogation. The Experience: Volunteers will be subjected to interrogation technique by trained law enforcement officers to illustrate how duress and pressure can influence a suspect.
  • The Footnote Four String Quartet: Enjoy a musical revue exploring constitutional law in song.


  • Lochner’s Bakery- Sample some of the most “healthful,” and delicious baked goods, including breads, muffins, and hot cross buns.
  • Carolene Products Creamery: Enjoy your favorite dairy products, including cheese, ice cream, and yogurt, made from fresh, or filled milk.
  • The Slaughter-House Cases New Orleans BBQ- You have the “privilege” to savor some of the best flavors of Southern BBQ, or the “immunity” to sample healthy desserts.
  • Granholm v. Heald Dormant Wine Bar- Imbibe delicious wines imported from out of state.
Construction on Constitution Land is scheduled to begin on September 17, 2012, Constitution Day, outside of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, near the site of George Washington’s famous crossing of the Delaware River, and minutes away from Philadelphia, the Cradle of our Constitution.

The Harlan Institute

The Harlan Institute’s mission is to bring a stylized law school experience into the high school classroom to ensure that our next generation of leaders has a proper understanding of our most fundamental laws. By utilizing the expertise of leading legal scholars and the interactivity of online games, Harlan will introduce students to our Constitution, the cases of the United States Supreme Court, and our system of justice. Harlan’s long term strategic goal is to develop condensed law school courses that can be taught at no cost in high schools across the country using engaging online programs. In case you didn't realize it, this is an April Fool's Joke.