In this chapter, you will learn how the Constitution of the United States continues to respond to the changing needs of society. You will read about the amendments to the Constitution that brought equality to a greater number of Americans. You will learn about the role of the Supreme Court in applying constitutional principles.
Changing the Law of the Land
A Flexible Framework
TARGET READING SKILL
In this chapter you will focus on analyzing words in order to better understand them. Analyzing words includes breaking words down into parts, such as prefixes and roots, and recognizing word origins.
March on Washington, 1963
National Standards for Civics and Government
The following National Standards for Civics and Government are addressed in this chapter:
I. What are Civic Life, Politics, and Government?
C. What are the nature and purposes of constitutions?
II. What are the foundations of the American political system?
C. What is American political culture?
Civics in the Real World
One Monday morning, Mrs. Taylor made a surprise announcement to her Civics class: They were going to elect a student committee to recommend rules for the class. At first the students responded enthusiastically, but then Mrs. Taylor stunned them by saying: "In order to vote for committee members, you must be a boy and you must be white."
Immediately students began to protest. Why were the girls not allowed to vote? Why could the African American, Hispanic American, and Asian American students not vote?
After listening to the objections, Mrs. Taylor replied, "Actually, I agree with you. It is unfair. But I wanted to make a point about our nation. For much of our history, most states allowed only white males to vote. Fortunately, this is no longer the case because the Constitution has been changed."
Our Constitution has survived for more than two centuries because it responds to the needs of a growing and changing society. Despite changes in attitudes and conditions over the years, Americans have not had to create a whole new Constitution.
Citizen's Journal Our Constitution is described as a flexible document. Write a paragraph explaining why you think this flexibility has been important to our nation. Then, after studying the chapter, reread your paragraph. Write a new paragraph, explaining how your understanding has grown.
Changing the Law of the Land
In this section you will
• Learn how slavery was abolished.
• Find out more about how African Americans gained the right to vote.
• Explore how women gained the right to vote.
• Discuss how young adults gained the right to vote.
• Learn how the Constitution adapts to the needs of society.
Make a flow map organizer like the one below. As you read the section, complete the diagram to record the amendments discussed.
Citizenship and voting rights have undergone dramatic changes in our country's history. The amendment process enables our Constitution to adapt to a constantly changing society.
Target Reading Skill
Analyze Word Parts Breaking down difficult words into parts may enable you to recognize a word meaning and pronunciation. You may find roots, prefixes, or suffixes. A root is the base of a word that has meaning by itself. A prefix goes in front of the root and changes the meaning.
The Statue of Freedom atop the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.
Since the Bill of Rights became part of the Constitution, 17 other amendments have been added. Most of these amendments reflect efforts to adapt the Constitution to meet changing needs and attitudes. For example, over time there has been a great change in the attitudes of Americans about who has the right to vote.
Originally, the Constitution let the states decide who was qualified to be a citizen. Most states granted citizenship only to white men who owned property. Today, however, anyone born or naturalized in the United States is a citizen. Any citizen who is at least 18 years old may vote.
As you know, the Constitution begins with the words "We the people of the United States: Why is the meaning of we the people" so much broader today than it was in 1787? In the following pages, you will step back into history to trace the changes in citizenship and voting rights that have taken place in this country over the years. You will see how the amendment process helps the Constitution adjust to changing times.
Many people were denied citizenship in the early years of our nation. Among them were enslaved African Americans. The United States was founded on freedom. Why did it permit slavery? Why was slavery eventually abolished by an amendment to the Constitution? Finding the answers requires looking at the history of slavery in our nation.
1. Analyze Which amendment lowered the voting age to 18? When was it passed?
2. Apply Which amendments broadened voting rights?
Slavery and the Framers The Constitutional Convention probably would have failed without a compromise on slavery. Southerners believed that their farming economy would collapse without slave labor. However, by that time many northern states had banned slavery within their borders and wanted slavery to be made illegal nationwide. The Framers needed both the northern and southern states to ratify the Constitution. Therefore, the Framers avoided deciding whether to abolish slavery. Nowhere in the Constitution is the word slavery even mentioned. Instead, the Framers used phrases such as all other persons and such people to refer to slaves without using the words slave or slavery.
To avoid angering the southern states, the Framers even tried to make slavery seem acceptable. They agreed that slaves could be counted as part of a state's population and that runaway slaves had to be returned to their owners. However, neither the northern nor southern states were completely satisfied by the compromises. Many Americans wondered whether a nation so divided over slavery could survive.
Tension Between North and South As new states joined the nation during the early 1800s, the North and the South competed for power in Congress. The more populous northern states controlled a majority in the House. However, the North argued that including enslaved people in population counts gave southern states more representatives than they deserved. The South, in turn, feared that the North might use its political power to abolish slavery everywhere.
Congress tried to avoid a serious conflict by passing the Missouri Compromise in 1820. This law divided new lands into "slave" territories and "free" territories. Nevertheless, Americans increasingly saw slavery as an "all or nothing" issue. On one side were those who defended the right to own slaves anywhere. On the other side were those who wanted slavery to be banned everywhere.
Further efforts at compromise seemed hopeless. Therefore, Congress later tried the principle of majority rule, allowing settlers in each territory to vote on whether to allow slavery there. However, this only sparked conflict among settlers. Tension within the nation continued to build.
A Case for Freedom
In 1857, the front page of Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper featured an article about the Dred Scott case. Draw Conclusions Do you think Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper was a newspaper from the North or the South? Why?
A Controversial Court Decision A tense nation awaited a Supreme Court decision on a case in 1857. Many people hoped this case would finally settle the slavery issue.
A slave named Dred Scott had traveled with his slaveholder to Illinois and the Wisconsin territory, where slavery was illegal. After they returned to Missouri, Scott argued that his residence in a free territory had made him a free person. Now the Court had to decide whether or not Scott was free according to the Constitution.
The Court ruled that, according to the Constitution, slaves were property. The Court also ruled that Congress could not prevent slaveholders from taking slaves anywhere they wished. The Constitution was interpreted as allowing slavery. Despite the decision, Americans who opposed slavery did not give up hope that things would change.
The Thirteenth Amendment Change finally came after the Civil War, which took the lives of more than 600,000 Americans. The North's victory in the war paved the way for the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery in 1865.
Reading Check Why was the outcome of the Dred Scott case considered a victory for defenders of slavery?
Slave States and Free States, 1854
In the 1800s, the United States was a nation deeply divided over slavery.
1. Analyze In which territories was slavery permitted by popular sovereignty?
2. Apply Based on the map, is it correct to say that the nation was evenly divided over the issue of slavery? Why or why not?
African Americans and the Right to Vote
The Constitution now banned slavery. But the struggle for citizenship and voting rights for African Americans had only begun. Even those who had been free long before the Civil War knew that freedom did not mean equality. For one thing, the states still had the power to decide who could he a citizen. Most states both northern and southern—continued to deny citizenship to African Americans.
The Fourteenth Amendment This amendment, adopted in 1868, ensured citizenship for African Americans. It takes the power to grant citizenship away from the states. The amendment states that "All persons born or naturalized in the United States ... are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside." It also declares that no state may "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law" or "deny to any person ... the equal protection of the laws."
Why were these statements added when there was already a Bill of Rights? Actually, the first ten amendments say only that Congress must respect citizens' rights. The Fourteenth Amendment specifically requires the states to do so. Therefore, it has often been called the "second Bill of Rights."
The Fourteenth Amendment did not automatically ensure equal treatment. The Supreme Court had ruled that state governments could not treat African Americans unfairly. This did not prevent private citizens, such as employers, from discriminating against them.
The First Vote
This drawing by A.R. Waud shows African American men voting in the first state election during Reconstruction in the South.
Draw ConclusionsWhy do you think there are no African American women voting?
Amendments have been made to the Constitution to reflect the changing attitudes on issues facing the nation. Some issues that were once acceptable or tolerated are now considered unconstitutional.
1. Describe the action in the setting of the cartoon.
2. What issues does the cartoonist include in the cartoon?
3. Why does the cartoonist put these issues in a museum setting?
The Fifteenth Amendment In some states, being a citizen did not guarantee suffrage, or the right to vote. To keep states from denying voting rights to African Americans, the Fifteenth Amendment, added in 1870, declares that states may not deny the vote to any person on the basis of "race, color, or previous condition of servitude."
Target Reading Skill
Analyze Word Parts Breaking a word into its parts can help you understand its meaning. For example, if in- means "not," what is the meaning of injustice?
The Twenty-fourth Amendment Despite the Fifteenth Amendment, some states found a number of ways to prevent African Americans from voting. Some states required citizens to pay a poll tax, or a fee for voting. Many were therefore unable to vote because they were too poor to pay the tax.
The passage of the Twenty-fourth Amendment in 1964 finally made poll taxes illegal. This amendment was an important step toward protecting the rights of African Americans and undoing the injustice done against them.
Changes in the Constitution do not guarantee that attitudes and conditions in society will change completely and immediately. It took more than 100 years for the nation to make real progress toward ending discrimination against African Americans and other racial groups.
Reading Check Why is the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution sometimes called the "second Bill of Rights"?
Women and the Right to Vote
African Americans were not the only group left out of "we the people" in 1787. Women, too, faced a long struggle for full citizenship rights. Unlike slavery, women's rights did not even seem to be an issue in the minds of the Framers. Traditional ideas about the role of women help to explain why most states denied them voting rights for many years.
Traditional Ideas About Women Long before the founding of our country, most people believed that women belonged in the home, caring for the family. They believed women were unable to handle many of the jobs that men performed. Large numbers of women took factory jobs during the 1800s. But still, laws treated them differently from men. Some laws allowed women to do only specific—usually low-paid jobs.
People who held the traditional view disapproved of women voting or holding political office. They argued that politically active women would leave their family responsibilities behind. This would upset the stability of family life. They also thought that women were less intelligent than men. They believed that women were less able to make political decisions.
Challenging the Traditional View By the late 1800s, people's views toward women began to change. More women took jobs. Many women also became active in social and political issues.
Soon, some women began to insist on the right to vote. A declaration from the Seneca Falls women's rights convention in 1848 stated, "We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men and women are created equal." Nevertheless, by 1900 only a handful of states had granted suffrage to women.
During the late 1800s and early 1900s, supporters of women's suffrage gained the public's attention. These supporters were known as suffragists. They marched, gave speeches, wrote to government officials and newspapers, and even went on hunger strikes. A proposed amendment giving suffrage to women was introduced—but failed to pass—in almost every session of Congress for 40 years, from 1878 to 1918.
Susan B. Anthony was a well-known American suffragist. In 1872, she was arrested for voting in a presidential election. She delivered a speech in 1873 that reflected on women's right to vote.
"[The Constitution states] we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people— women as well as men. And it is a downright mockery to talk to women of their enjoyment of the blessings of liberty while they are denied the use of the only means of securing them provided by this democratic-republican government—the ballot."
Analyze Primary Sources How does Susan B. Anthony's interpretation of the opening words of the preamble to the Constitution support her argument?
Women suffragists attempted to capture the public's attention for their cause.
The Nineteenth Amendment By 1916, an overwhelming majority of suffrage organizations were united behind the goal of a constitutional amendment. In 1917, New York gave women the right to vote. A year later, President Woodrow Wilson, who previously opposed suffrage, changed his position to support an amendment. The tide began to turn, and the suffragists' determination paid off. A breakthrough came in January 1918 at an emotional session of the House of Representatives. The visitors' galleries were packed as the House prepared to vote. Several congressmen voted despite illness. One was even brought in on a stretcher. Another left his gravely ill wife, at her request, to cast his vote. This time the House approved the amendment. The Senate approved it the following yeah The Nineteenth Amendment was ratified by the states in 1920. Women were now truly part of "we the people."
Reading Check How did women show that they deserved the right to vote?
Voting in the United States
Throughout the history of our nation, a number of constitutional amendments related to the voting process have been passed. These amendments have broadened the definition of who has the right to vote. This timeline shows some of the major legislation related to voting rights.
a. Analyze Which amendments on the timeline pertain to electing officials?
b. Apply How many years did it take to abolish the poll tax after African American men got the right to vote? Why do you think it took so long for the government to abolish the poll tax?
1804 12th Amendment allows citizens to vote for the President and Vice President separately
1870 15th Amendment establishes voting rights for African American men
1878 First proposed amendment giving suffrage to women fails to pass
1913 17th Amendment establishes the direct election of senators
1920 19th Amendment establishes voting rights for women
1961 23rd Amendment includes the voters of the District of Columbia in the presidential electorate
1964 24th Amendment abolishes poll taxes
1965 Voting Rights Act prohibits discrimination in voting practices or procedures because of race and color
1971 26th Amendment lowers the voting age to eighteen
1975 Extension of Voting Rights Act protects citizens with limited English ability
Youth and the Right to Vote
The most recent voting rights amendment lowered the voting age to 18. Until the middle of the twentieth century, the voting age was 21. However, millions of young people served in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Many Americans came to believe that citizens old enough to fight and to die for their country should not be denied the right to vote. Public support grew for lowering the voting age.
Congress passed a law in 1970 giving 18-year-olds the right to vote in national, state, and local elections. However, the Supreme Court later ruled that Congress could set the voting age only for national—not state or local elections. After the Court decision, it seemed that the only way to guarantee 18-year-olds the right to vote in all elections was by changing the Constitution. Congress overwhelmingly approved the new amendment in March 1971.
Reading Check What explains public support for lowering the voting age from 21 to 18?
For: Interactive Time Line
Web Code: mpp-2071
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was proposed to give women equal rights, though it failed in 1982 to be ratified.
The Voice of the People
The voting rights amendments show that the Constitution can be changed in response to new attitudes and conditions in society. The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments came about largely as a result of the Civil War. However, all the other changes in the Constitution were made through peaceful efforts of citizens.
The most recent amendment to the Constitution was the Twenty-seventh Amendment, ratified in 1992. This amendment states that if members of Congress vote to increase their salaries, the change cannot go into effect until after the next election. This way, members of Congress are accountable to the voters for their actions.
Amendments are frequently suggested and debated by citizens. You might be tempted to ask, "Is our Constitution truly a good plan of government?" A quick look back at history will provide the answer. If the Framers had written a poor plan, we would have had hundreds, maybe thousands, of amendments by now. Perhaps we would even have a whole new Constitution. Instead, we have had only 27 amendments. The voice of the people has been heard.
Reading Check Who is allowed to propose changes to the Constitution?
Section 1 Assessment
Use each of the key terms in a sentence that explains its meaning: suffrage, poll tax
Target Reading Skill
1. Apply your knowledge of the suffix -ist. What does suffragist mean?
Comprehension and Critical Thinking
a. Recall At the time the Constitution was written in 1787, what bodies had the authority to decide who was qualified to be a citizen?
b. Draw Inferences Why were the Framers reluctant to abolish slavery in the Constitution?
a. Describe How did the Fourteenth Amendment ensure citizenship for African Americans?
b. Contrast How did the Twenty-fourth Amendment differ from the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments?
a. Explain Why did people's traditional attitudes about women begin to change in the 1800s?
b. Draw Inferences Why was the 1918 vote in the House of Representatives for women's suffrage such an emotional one?
a. Recall How did Congress and the Supreme Court view lowering the voting age from 21 to 18?
b. Identify Cause and Effect What spurred the growth in public sentiment for a lowered voting age?
a. Recall How many amendments are there?
b. Evaluate Information What do the number of amendments suggest about our government?
Writing Activity: Petition
Propose an amendment to the Constitution that you would like Congress to consider. In your petition, specify the changes to the Constitution that would be needed.
• You should list the demands of your petition at the beginning of your proposed amendment.
• You should use formal language, and be concise, clear, and logical.
• You may want to consult some amendments to the Constitution to get a sense of amendment language.
Photographs can be valuable primary source documents. They help us understand the circumstances surrounding an event and how people felt. Examining photographs carefully gives us clues about the event that is captured. Keep in mind, too, that photographers, like writers, may sometimes betray their own point of view in their work.
The women's suffrage movement gained momentum during the 1910s as more and more women joined the fight for their rights. Pickets and parades became common events. The photograph below shows a women's suffrage parade in New York City on May 6, 1912.
Learn the Skill
Follow these steps to analyze a photograph:
1. Identify the subject and look for details. What does the photograph show? Examine the photograph closely. Identify people, objects, and any other things that give clues about the circumstances of the event shown in the photograph. Try to identify where and when it was taken.
2. Analyze the photographer's intent. Why do you think the photographer took this picture? Was the picture posed, or was it taken as it happened?
3. Draw conclusions. What can you learn from this photograph? What factual information does it convey? How does it further your understanding of history?
Practice the Skill
Look at the photograph above, and answer these questions:
1. To what does the phrase on the banner "DEMAND EQUAL REPRESENTATION FOR EQUAL TAXATION" allude?
2. What does the children's presence in the parade suggest?
3. What did you learn from this photograph?
Apply the Skill
Analyze another photograph in this chapter. Identify the subject and details, and then describe what you learned from the photo.
A Flexible Framework
In this section you will
• Discuss the role of the Supreme Court.
• Explore how equality and segregation were at odds in our nation's history.
• Consider equality and affirmative action in our nation's history.
• Take a look at women and equality.
• Understand how the Constitution provides a framework for the future.
Make a diagram like the one below. As you read the section, use the diagram to record one of the Supreme Court decisions described that provided citizens with equal protection under the law.
Amendments to the Constitution have enlarged the rights of African Americans and women with respect to equality. The Supreme Court applies the principles of the Constitution to the cases or issues that it hears.
Target Reading Skill
Recognize Word Origins A word's origin is where the word comes from. Knowing the origin of root words can help you determine the meanings of unfamiliar words.
Amendments enable the Constitution to change with the times. Now, you will take a closer look at why very few changes have been needed. The Framers realized that specific instructions for running a government in 1787 might not work years later. By providing general principles, they gave later generations freedom to fill in the details. In this way, the Constitution does not have to be changed constantly.
The Role of the Supreme Court
If the Constitution does not spell out in detail how to follow the principles, who makes sure that they are being followed correctly? This is where the courts, especially the Supreme Court, enter the picture. The Supreme Court has the final say over whether government officials and other citizens have correctly followed constitutional principles. By deciding whether a certain action violates the Constitution, the Court makes that action either legal or illegal.
Overturning a Decision However, a Court decision is not necessarily permanent. It may be overturned by an amendment that changes, removes, or adds a constitutional principle. For example, the Died Scott decision was overturned when the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery.
A decision may also be overturned by a later Court decision. New evidence or new ideas may lead the Court to change an earlier interpretation of a constitutional principle.
Interpreting a Principle How has the Supreme Court applied broad constitutional principles to a changing society? One way to answer this question is to see how the Court's interpretation of one principle changed over the course of several important cases. A good example is the Fourteenth Amendment principle that no state can deny citizens the "equal protection of the laws."
Equal protection means that people must be treated fairly, but it does not mean that everybody must be treated in the exact same way. For instance, a bank does not have to lend money to every customer, but it must be fair in deciding who will receive loans. It may base its decision on a customer's ability to repay the money. It may not base its decision on a customer's race or gender.
Denying a loan to a person because of race or gender is, of course, an example of discrimination. Human history has been scarred by many forms of discrimination. The following cases focus on two forms that have been particularly common: racial discrimination and discrimination against women. As you read, think about the Supreme Court's important role in applying the general principles of our Constitution to these situations.
Reading Check How can Supreme Court decisions be overturned?
The principle of equal protection was originally intended to prevent states from denying rights to African Americans. Over the years, the Court has interpreted the meaning of equal protection in many situations that might involve racial discrimination.
Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) The Fourteenth Amendment had given African Americans citizenship. However, many states passed laws requiring segregation, or separation, of blacks and whites in public places such as hotels, restaurants, and trains. Did segregation violate the principle of equal protection?
CLOSE UP FOUNDATION
Watch the Civics: Government and Economics in Action videos to learn more about civil rights.
Video: Overview Video: Up Close
Segregation in America
An African American woman is directed away from a "whites only" waiting room at a Dallas bus station in 1961.
Draw ConclusionsHow did segregation violate the principle of equal protection?
Target Reading Skill
Recognize Word Origins Reread the sentence "Plessy argued that the Louisiana law ...". The word segregate comes from the Latin root greg-, meaning "herd." Based on your knowledge of the meaning of the word, what do you think the prefix se- means?
U.S. troops escorted nine African American students into Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957.
Draw ConclusionsWhy did troops have to escort these students to school?
The Court faced this question in 1896, when it heard a Louisiana case involving Homer Plessy. Plessy was an African American man who had refused to leave a "whites only" railroad car. Plessy argued that the Louisiana law requiring segregation violated his right to equal protection. In a famous decision, Plessy v. Ferguson, the Court ruled that the Louisiana law did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment as long as the cars for blacks and for whites were of equal quality. For more than 50 years after the decision, this "separate but equal" standard was accepted as a justification for laws that segregated blacks from whites.
Opposition to Segregation Not everyone agreed that "separate but equal" facilities truly guaranteed equal protection of the laws. Many schools and other facilities for African Americans were not as good as those for whites. Furthermore, even when the facilities were equal in quality, the fact of being separated by law made many African Americans feel that they were treated as inferior to whites. Could it really be said, then, that they were being treated equally?
By the early I 950s, many Americans were questioning the fairness of segregation. Among them was Thurgood Marshall, a lawyer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He and other NAACP lawyers brought before the Court several cases involving facilities that were segregated but equal in quality. They knew that such cases would force the Court to decide whether "separate but equal" facilities truly represented "equal protection?'
At the center of one of these cases was a schoolgirl from Topeka, Kansas. Linda Brown was about to play a role in overturning a Supreme Court ruling that had permitted segregation for more than half a century.
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) Linda Brown, an African American girl, lived only 7 blocks from a school for white children. By law, however, she was required to attend a school for African American children 21 blocks away. Linda's parents thought she should be able to attend the neighborhood school. Therefore, they took the school board to court, with the help of the NAACP.
In arguing the case before the Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall presented evidence that separate schools had a harmful effect on both black and white children. Black children were made to feel inferior to whites, he argued, while white children learned to feel superior to African American children. Therefore, Marshall concluded, "separate hut equal" schools could never be equal.
All of the justices on the Supreme Court were convinced by Marshall's reasoning. The Court agreed that segregation of African Americans creates "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." Separate educational facilities, the Court ruled, were "inherently 'by their very nature', unequal" and therefore violated the principle of equal protection.
The Court determined that the "separate but equal" standard established in Plessy v. Ferguson had no place in public education. Thus, the decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka overturned the decision in Plessy v. Ferguson and made all segregation laws unconstitutional. Thus, it is a significant example of how Supreme Court rulings can keep the Constitution flexible.
Reading Check What impact did the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka have on segregation?
Equality and Affirmative Action
The Court's ruling gave a powerful constitutional weapon to Americans who were fighting racial discrimination. Spurred on by the Brown case and by increasing public pressure during the 1960s, Congress passed a series of laws—known as civil rights laws to guard against racial discrimination. However, these laws could not undo the effects of years of discrimination against African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans, particularly in the workplace.
Affirmative Action Starting in the late 1960s, as a result of the civil rights movement, the government worked to correct the effects of unfair hiring practices. It required companies to take affirmative action, steps to counteract the effects of past racial discrimination and discrimination against women. Colleges and universities that seemed to favor white males when hiring staff and admitting students were required to take similar steps.
Some people have argued that affirmative action does not result in equal treatment. They say that affirmative action leads to discrimination against white male applicants. Faced with the
Traditional views of women's roles and rights have changed as more women, like this astronaut, take on jobs previously held by men.
Civics and Economics
Earnings Gap The U.S. Census Bureau issued a press release about the income of American workers in 2002. It showed that the earnings gap between men and women was narrowing.
The press release showed that women working full time earned an average of $29,215 per year in 2001. This was an increase of 3.5 percent from the previous year. Men working full time earned $38,275, but that figure did not increase from the previous year.
These statistics showed that men still outearned women. However, the gap appeared to be closing. In 2001, women earned an average of 76 cents for every dollar earned by men. The previous high was 74 cents to the dollar, first recorded in 1996.
1. What might explain the difference between the incomes of men and women with similar qualifications?
2. What do you think can be done to close the earnings gap?
For: Interactive Constitution with Supreme Court Cases
Web Code: mpp-2072
Focus on The Supreme Court
Grutter v. Bollinger (2003)
Why It Matters Colleges and universities consider many factors when admitting students. Many consider applicants' race and ethnicity, among other factors. This policy is known as affirmative action. Affirmative action developed as a way to increase diversity and to reduce educational disadvantages facing minority students.
Background Barbara Grutter, a white student, was denied admission to the University of Michigan Law School in 1996. Grutter discovered that minority students with lower test scores than her own had been admitted. Grutter sued the university and its president, Lee Bollinger. Grutter claimed that she was discriminated against based on her race. The university argued that affirmative action was necessary.
Barbara Grutter won her case in the U.S. District Court. The decision was later overturned on appeal. Grutter then appealed her case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Decision The Court ruled in favor of the University of Michigan. The Court said that no illegal discrimination had occurred. In the majority opinion, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote that the policy of affirmative action was still needed. She held that it would ensure a diverse student body and would help undo past wrongs.
Understanding the Law
1. What is affirmative action?
2. How does Grutter v. Bollinger affect college admissions?
question of whether affirmative action programs really do lead to fair treatment of applicants, the Court took another close look at the meaning of "equal protection?'
Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978) One school with an affirmative action program was the medical school of the University of California at Davis. The school reserved places in each entering class for African American, Hispanic American, Asian American, and Native American students. In 1973 and again in 1974, a white applicant, Allan Bakke, was rejected for admission. Some members of other racial and ethnic groups were admitted with lower grade-point averages, test scores, and interview ratings. Bakke took the university to court, arguing that he was a victim of reverse discrimination.
The Bakke case posed a challenge for the Supreme Court. Unlike the Brown case, the justices were sharply divided. Some thought the admissions program was a reasonable way to overcome effects of discrimination. The majority, however, agreed with Bakke.
The Court ruled that under the equal protection principle, it was unconstitutional for an admissions program to discriminate against whites only because of their race. However, the Court stated that race could be one of the factors considered if the school wished to create a more diverse student body while treating white applicants fairly.
Affirmative action was challenged further in 1996 when California voters approved Proposition 209. This law prohibited state universities and employers from considering race or ethnicity when accepting students or hiring employees. The Supreme Court refused to review the case in 1997 when opponents tried to overturn the law. In 2003, however, the Court's decision in Grutter v. Bollinger held that considering race or ethnicity is a legal and necessary tool in college admissions.
Reading Check What was affirmative action originally designed to counteract?
Women and Equality
The Court has also applied the equal protection principle to other issues, such as whether companies may treat male employees differently from female employees. May a company hire only males for certain jobs? May they have different rules for women and men? As more women entered the workplace over the years, traditional views on women's roles and rights changed. The following case illustrates how the Court has addressed such questions.
Changes in the Workplace
Asian American working mothers demonstrate for child-care services.
Draw InferencesWhy is child care an important issue for working mothers?
Students Make a Difference
Christopher Elmore, Senior Class President at Fairview High School in Boulder, Colorado, believes it is important for students to have a voice on issues concerning school policy. For three years, he has served as Chair of the Student Accountability Advisory Cornmittee (SAAC), a student committee that represents student issues to the professional staff and school board of the Boulder Valley School District. "I enjoy having the opportunity to represent the students of the district and to effect positive change?'
How can you effect policy change in your local school district?
Students can help make a difference by learning more about issues concerning school policy.
Ida Phillips applied for a position with the Martin Marietta Corporation in Florida. Part of the corporation's screening process was to find out whether female applicants had young children. In the corporation's view, young children take up a lot of women's time and energy. The corporation felt that this would interfere with work performance. Women such as Ida Phillips, who had two preschoolers, were denied jobs for that reason.
When Ida Phillips was rejected for the job, she decided to take the corporation to court. She argued that she had not been treated equally. She charged the company with discriminating against women because male applicants were not questioned about their children. Men were hired whether or not they had young children at home.
The Court ruled in favor of Ida Phillips, declaring that the company could not have "one hiring policy for women and another for men."
Reading Check How was the equal protection clause applied by the Supreme Court in the Phillips case?
A Framework for the Future
The cases you have just examined all show how the Supreme Court applies general principles of the Constitution to new situations or issues. A hundred years ago, most Americans could not have foreseen that racial discrimination against a white man would ever become an issue, as happened in the Bakke case. However, the equal protection principle can be applied just as well to racial discrimination of any type.
Similarly, equality in the workplace did not become a major issue until relatively recently. As more women have taken jobs outside the home, however, they have called attention to cases of unequal treatment. In response, the Supreme Court has applied the old principle of equal protection to this new situation.
The general principles of our living Constitution have guided our nation for more than two centuries and can be expected to do so in the future. Judging from past history, amendments may be required from time to time, but the Constitution's sturdy framework of principles will most likely remain intact.
Reading Check To whom does the principle of equal protection apply?
Today, many more women have the opportunity to prove themselves in the business world. As the president and CEO of online auctioneer eBay, Meg Whitman led the company to become an Internet powerhouse.
Section 2 Assessment
Use each of the key terms in a sentence that explains its meaning: equal protection, segregation, affirmative action
Target Reading Skill
1. Word Origins If super- means "above," what do you think the word supervise means?
Comprehension and Critical Thinking
a. Recall Who has final authority concerning constitutional principles?
b. Draw Inferences Why does it make sense that a Supreme Court decision is not permanently binding?
a. Explain What racial concept did the Plessy v. Ferguson decision uphold?
b. Identify Main Ideas What did segregation opponents hope to achieve with Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka?
a. Describe What did many of the civil rights laws of the 1960s hope to achieve?
b. Draw Inferences Where might racial and gender discrimination commonly occur?
a. Explain How did the Supreme Court use the equal protection principle to address discrimination in the workplace?
b. Compare In what ways are gender and racial discrimination similar?
a. Recall What do all of the cases in this chapter have in common?
b. Draw Inferences Why did gender discrimination in the workplace become a major issue only relatively recently?
Writing Activity: Biography
Use the Internet to research an important figure in the civil rights movement. Write a brief biographical essay of the person you chose.
Debating the Issues
CLOSE UP FOUNDATION
The debates in this feature are based on Current Issues, published by the Close Up Foundation. Go to PHSchool.com, Web Code mph-1025, to view additional debates from Current Issues.
The United States is largely an English-speaking nation. Our founding documents were written in English. Our government conducts its business in English. However, there is no law that requires this. The United States is also a nation of immigrants from all over the world. Our citizens and immigrants speak a wide variety of languages.
Should the Government Make English the Nation's Official Language?
• Every nation should have an official language in which it can conduct business, both within and outside of its borders. In the United States, it should be English because that is the language most Americans speak.
• If English were the official language, immigrants would have a greater incentive to learn to speak English quickly. This in turn would widen their opportunities for higher education and careers.
• The establishment of an official language does not mean that other languages may not be spoken. The United States is a nation of immigrants whose people will continue to speak a variety of languages.
• The United States is a nation of immigrants. The English language should not be considered better than other languages that make up our nation.
• At the turn of the last century, more than 10 percent of the U.S. population was foreign-born. Printing government forms in English only would make life very difficult for these thousands of immigrants.
• With the exception of Native Americans, every citizen of the United States is either an immigrant or the descendant of immigrants. Making English the official language would insult the languages and cultures of the millions of immigrants who have helped to build this nation since its founding.
What Is Your Opinion?
1. Identify Cause Why has English become the dominant language of the United States? Use your knowledge of history to answer.
2. Identify Alternatives More than 14 million Spanish-speaking immigrants live in the United States. Should the United States have two official languages—English and Spanish? Why or why not?
3. Write to Persuade Suppose that Congress is about to vote on a bill that would make English the nation's official language. Write a letter urging your representative in Congress to vote for or against the bill. Explain your reasons in detail.
Review and Assessment
Changing the Law of the Land
• Amendments to the Constitution reflect the changing needs and attitudes of the American people.
• Slavery was abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865.
• The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments (1868 and 1870) guaranteed African Americans the rights of citizenship, including the right to vote. Nevertheless, many states imposed requirements such as poll taxes, which were outlawed by the Twenty-fourth Amendment in 1964.
• Women were not granted suffrage, or the right to vote, until the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified in 1920.
• The Twenty-sixth Amendment ratified in 1971, gave people aged 18 and older the right to vote.
A Flexible Framework
• The Supreme Court determines whether actions or legislation have violated the Constitution. Its decisions must be obeyed by the President and Congress.
• The Fourteenth Amendment's principle of equal protection was intended to prevent discrimination based on race. The Supreme Court upheld the idea that segregation of African American citizens was acceptable, as long as the separate accommodations were of equal quality. However, the Court ended the official approval of the "separate but equal" principle in the 1950s. Legalized segregation was abolished.
• Women were denied the right to vote for many years. Many women had difficulty getting certain jobs and were not as well paid for their work as men.
• Affirmative action policies were intended to create opportunities for many Americans who experienced discrimination based on race, ethnicity, and gender.
• The Constitution can be amended to adapt to great changes in American society. The difficulty of the amendment process ensures that there are no trivial changes made to the Constitution.
Copy the chart below, and use it to help you summarize the chapter:
Reviewing Key Terms
Fill in each blank with one of the key terms from the list below.
1. Amendments that proposed giving _____ to women were introduced in almost every session of Congress in the 40 years from 1878 to 1918.
2. Legalized _____ required separate public places for African Americans and white Americans.
3. Some states imposed a _____ to prevent nonwhites from voting.
4. The principle of _____ is guaranteed in the Fourteenth Amendment.
5. The policy of _____ was designed, in part, to correct the effects of unfair hiring practices.
Comprehension and Critical Thinking
a. Recall Why did the Framers of the Constitution decide not to abolish slavery?
b. Summarize What was the Supreme Court's ruling in the Dred Scott case?
c. Draw Conclusions How did the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee citizenship to African Americans?
a. Explain What powers does the Supreme Court have with respect to the Constitution?
b. Predict What do you think would happen if the Constitution were a list of very specific rules for the government to follow?
c. Synthesize Information How do the cases of Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka illustrate the flexibility of the Constitution?
8. Skills a. Why do you think the photographer took this picture? b. What does this photo suggest about changes in the classroom in the years after Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka?
9. Writing As you have seen, the Constitution alone cannot guarantee citizens' rights. Write an essay describing the role citizens should play in protecting one another's rights.
10. Active Citizen Create a bill of rights for your class. First, working in small groups, come up with two or three amendments that would help protect the rights of both teachers and students. As a class, debate each proposed amendment. Finally, vote on each amendment.
11. Math Practice Turn to the chart on page 187. What is the average number of years between amendments to the Constitution in the years displayed?
12. Civics and Economics Most single-parent families in the United States are headed by women. How might employment discrimination based on gender affect the incomes of these families?
13. Analyzing Visuals What does this photograph of civil rights protesters suggest about citizens' abilities to change the Constitution?
Standardized Test Prep
Some questions on standardized tests ask you to analyze a reading selection. Study the passage below, which was written by President Johnson in 1965. Then, follow the tips to answer the sample question.
TIP The first sentence gives clues and explains the purpose of the text.
Because all Americans just must have the right to vote....
All Americans must have the privileges of citizenship regardless of race....
But I would like to caution you and remind you that to exercise these privileges takes much more than just legal right. It requires a trained mind and a healthy body. It requires a decent home, and the chance to find a job, and the opportunity to escape from the clutches of poverty.
Pick the letter that best completes this statement.
TIP Notice the word "EXCEPT" in the question.
1. According to the speaker, all of the following are things that Americans deserve EXCEPT
A trained minds and healthy bodies.
C privileges of citizenship.
D the right to vote.
The correct answer is B. Note that the question asks you to choose the exception to the rule.
2. Which of the following best describes the tone of the passage?
The bill that I am presenting to you will be known as a civil rights bill ....