Densho Civil Liberties Curriculum

Introduction and Teacher Instructions
Checks and Balances:
Japanese American Incarceration
Copyright © 2006 Densho
1416 S Jackson
Seattle, WA 98144
Phone: 206.320.0095
Email: [email protected]
Acknowledgements and Notes
The website Causes of the Incarceration ( and the lesson Checks and
Balances: Japanese American Incarceration are made possible by a grant from the Washington
State Civil Liberties Public Education Program.
This lesson is designed to closely align with Washington State’s Essential Academic Learning
Requirements as measured by a Social Studies Classroom Based Assessment (CBA) model. The
model used for this lesson is:
Category: Civics
Level: Middle School
Topic: Checks and Balances
Densho: the Japanese American Legacy Project developed this lesson. Densho is a Japanese term
meaning "to pass on to the next generation," or to leave a legacy. Our mission is to preserve the
testimonies of Japanese Americans who were unjustly incarcerated during World War II. We
collect and offer their stories in a manner that reflects our deep regard for who they are and what
they endured.
Using digital technology, Densho provides access to personal accounts, historical documents and
photographs, and teacher resources to explore principles of democracy and promote equal
justice. We seek to educate young people and inspire them to act in defense of liberty and the
highest values of our country. Densho presents a thorough accounting of what happened to
Japanese Americans during a time of war and in doing so contributes to the current debate about
civil liberties during times of national emergency. It is our conviction and hope that an informed
citizenry, aware of the human costs and consequences of the violation of the rights of the few,
will be better equipped to protect the civil rights of all.
Contact Information
[email protected]
1416 South Jackson Street
Seattle, Washington USA 98144-2023
206.320.0098 fax
Connection to Washington State Social Studies
Classroom Based Assessments (CBAs)
Bridging Document
Step-by-Step Alignment of the Middle School Classroom Based Assessment model
“Checks and Balances” and the lesson Checks and Balances: Japanese American
For the CBA, students are
asked to develop a
reasoned position on the
effectiveness of the system
of checks and balances
related to a current or
historical event by:
 Connecting the event
with how branches
of government
 Connecting the event
with checks or
possible checks
 Evaluating a variety
of resources from
multiple points of
Explaining with a
clearly stated
position/thesis how
the system of checks
and balances worked
The Checks and Balances: Japanese American Incarceration
lesson aligns itself with the essential academic learning
requirements of the “Checks and Balances” CBA model in the
following manner:
Students examine how the three branches of the federal
government each made a decision relating to the removal and
incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.
These decisions also demonstrate how each branch of
government exercises its constitutional powers.
Students examine President Franklin Roosevelt’s wartime
decision to allow exclusion based on ancestry and the
subsequent actions by Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court.
The debates are designed for students to hear, discuss, and
debate different points of view using evidence from primary
and secondary resources. Individual groups are assigned to
research and share a particular point of view around a
controversial issue.
The fourth debate of the lesson focuses on how well the
system of checks and balances worked during World War II
regarding the issue of incarcerating Japanese Americans.
This debate provides background for the written paper
assignment evaluating checks and balances.
Acknowledgements and Notes………………………………………………………………...1
Connection to Washington State Standards-Bridging Document……………….…………2
Teacher Instructions……………………………………………………………………….…4-7
Teacher Instructions
Page 1 of 4
Introduction for Teachers
To prevent abuses of power, the authors of the U.S. Constitution developed a system of checks
and balances for the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the U.S. government. The
intent of this lesson is to examine decisions that the three branches of government made relating
to the mass removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. This lesson
stimulates dialogue about these important issues and helps students realize the complex decisions
that government officials must face.
Debates are a method to discuss opposing points of view. The point of the debates is not the vote
that takes place during the exercise, but the critical thinking and communication that happen
along the way. This lesson focuses on four issues.
Issue One: During World War II should the President have ordered the removal and
incarceration of all Japanese immigrants and U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry from the
West Coast?
Issue Two: Was the U.S. Supreme Court correct in ruling that it was constitutional to use
race as a factor in the removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World
War II?
Issue Three: Was the U.S. Congress correct in 1988 to draft legislation that called for the
formal apology and $20,000 individual payment to Japanese Americans who were
incarcerated during World War II?
Issue Four: How well did the judicial and legislative branches of the U.S. government
check the President’s order to remove and incarcerate Japanese Americans during World
War II?
Debate Format
The debate format is designed to encourage participation from all students. The four debates are
designed for twenty-four students. Each debate will have two opposing teams of three members
each. The format of the debates is divided into six parts.
Opening statements (4 minutes – 2 minutes per team)
Rebuttals (4 minutes – 2 minutes per team)
Questions from the audience (5 minutes)
Closing statements (4 minutes – 2 minutes per team)
Audience vote (1 minute)
Comments and discussion (5 minutes)
A different team member should be responsible for the opening statement, rebuttal, and closing
statement. All team members should be available for answering questions. For larger classes,
either add another debate or add more students per team. For smaller classes, either fewer
debates can be performed or have fewer students per team. If there is another issue that you and
your students think should be debated, add it or substitute it for an existing one that seems less
relevant or crucial.
Teacher Instructions
Page 2 of 4
Notes about this Lesson
Suggested Three-Day Lesson Plan
During the first day, students are introduced to the lesson and are assigned issues and groups. It
is recommended that the debates are scheduled several days to a week after the first day. This
will give students time to do additional research and preparation as homework. On the second
and third day, students participate in the debates. This lesson also includes a writing assignment
to be turned in after the debates are completed.
Time Management of Debates
The suggested timeframe of two days for the debates was designed for two 50-minute class
periods. Time management will be important. A minimum of 20-25 minutes is needed for each
debate. Student groups should be ready when class begins and there should be quick transitions
between debates. Time limits should be established and enforced.
Assessing Student Achievement
Group Assignment
A goal of this unit is to encourage group cooperation. It is suggested that group members receive
the same grade for the debate and that they are told in advance of this policy. Group members
should be encouraged to work together to achieve better results.
Individual Student Assignment
After the debates, students are asked to write a paper explaining how the branches of the federal
government exercised power, the checks available, and whether the system of checks and
balances was effective. The “Checks and Balances Rubric” is provided as a guideline for you and
the student on how the paper will be graded.
Student Self-Evaluation
It is recommended that students complete self-evaluations at the end of the lesson. This gives
students an opportunity to be part of the assessment process and it also gives the teacher a
perspective on what the student learned and the small group dynamics. The teacher should
develop questions for the students to answer in the self-evaluation. Students should be as specific
and concrete as possible with their answers. Below are some sample questions.
Sample Student Self Evaluation Questions:
 What did you learn?
 How well did you learn it?
 What do you want to learn next about the topics discussed in this lesson?
 What was most satisfying about working in a group?
 What was most frustrating about working in a group?
 How did you contribute to your group during this project?
Teacher Instructions
Page 3 of 4
Day One – Introduction of the Debate Topics and Group Formation
 Students will examine the removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII.
 Students will work cooperatively in a group to prepare for a debate.
Homework Reading and Discussion Questions:
 Reading - Decisions: Japanese American Incarceration. This should be passed out to students
several days before Day One of this lesson.
 Handout #1 - Debate Instructions
 Handout #2 - Additional Resources
 Handout #3 - Writing Assignment and Checklist
 Handout #4 – Checks and Balances Rubric
In the Classroom:
1. Discuss the reading: Decisions: Japanese American Incarceration. Go over the discussion
questions to give students an overview of the debate issues. (20 minutes)
2. Distribute and explain each handout (10 minutes)
Handout #1 - Debate Instructions [instructions for groups]
Handout #2 - Additional Resources [resources for additional research]
Handout #3 - Writing Assignment and Checklist [writing assignment after the debates]
Handout #4 – Checks and Balances Rubric [how the paper will be scored]
3. Form Debate Teams [10 minutes]
4. Allow Debate teams to meet and get organized [10 minutes]
Homework: Students should complete preparations for the debates.
Teacher Instructions
Page 4 of 4
Day Two and Three – Debates
 Students will present, explore, debate, and evaluate multiple issues about the removal and
incarceration of Japanese Americans.
 Students will cooperate with classmates in conducting a series of debates.
 Students will examine their own views on the debate issues.
 Handout #5 - Graphic Organizer for the Debates
Teacher Role During the Debates:
You play the moderator. Remind students that they will represent the point of view they have
been assigned, even though it might not be their own point of view. Tell them that their ability to
faithfully represent their assigned roles will allow the group to understand the many sides to the
issue. This activity can become heated as it focuses on a real issue that the students have strong
feelings about. It is important to remind students that they can make strong, emotional statements
if they feel so moved, but the statements must be based on evidence and they may not attack the
people who disagree with them.
It is important to enforce time limits during the debates. Either you or an assigned time-keeper
should signal the presenter when there are 30 seconds left, and an additional signal when there
are only 10 seconds left.
In the Classroom:
Each Debate (20-25 minutes)
1. Opening statements (4 minutes)
A representative from each team makes a two-minute opening presentation.
2. Rebuttals (4 minutes)
A representative from each team makes a two-minute argument that counters the
opposing teams opening presentation.
3. Questions from the audience (5 minutes)
The audience asks questions about the points raised by the presenters.
4. Closing statements (4 minutes)
A representative from each team makes a final two-minute presentation.
5. Audience vote (1 minute)
The audience is asked to consider what they heard and to participate in a hand vote over
the issue.
6. Comments and discussion (5 minutes)
Discuss the debate. Have the class focus on the following questions:
 What were the strongest arguments they heard during the debate? What were the
most compelling or effective reasons for voting one way or the other?
 How would the debate teams represent their assigned position differently if they
were to approach the exercise again?