May 2009 Vol. 107 No. 7 THE REVIEW

Can Courts Repair the Crumbling Foundation of Good Citizenship? An Examination of Potential Legal Challenges to Social Studies Cutbacks in Public Schools

Eli Savit

In the wake of No Child Left Behind, many public schools have cut or eliminated social studies instruction to allot more time for math and literacy. Given courts’ repeated celebration of education as the “foundation of good citizenship,” this Note examines potential legal claims and litigation strategies that could be used to compel social studies instruction in public schools. This Note contends that the federal judiciary’s civic conception of education leaves the door slightly ajar for a Fourteenth Amendment challenge on behalf of social studies-deprived students, but the Supreme Court’s refusal in San Antonio v. Rodriguez to recognize education as a fundamental right leaves potential federal challenges with substantial barriers to success. A state-law litigation strategy might prove more effective. In many states, constitutional education provisions or education-related judicial precedent strongly imply that public schools have a duty to provide students with social studies. States’ education standards or the history surrounding the adoption of education provisions may also suggest that a constitutionally adequate education necessarily includes social studies instruction. Thus, although challenges to schools’ curricular decisions are not sure to succeed, courts present a potential venue in which social studies-deprived students may be able to vindicate a right to civic education.

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