Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project

About the Program

The Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project is a national civics education program that sends law students into public high schools to teach courses in constitutional law and oral advocacy. These courses focus primarily on educating high schoolers about their constitutional rights. In addition, these courses train students in appellate advocacy and prepare them for moot court competitions with other schools. Law students run all aspects of the program, including curriculum design, lesson planning, and classroom teaching.

The Yale chapter of this project was established in Fall 2009 by Andres Idarraga ’11 and Zach Jones ’11. The core function of our chapter is to teach classes in local high schools New Haven Academy and Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School. Click here to for additional information on the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project.

What We Do

Classroom instruction: the core of our chapter's efforts

Throughout the school year, our Teaching Fellows and Teaching Assistants administer full courses in constitutional law at New Haven Academy and Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School. The course is designed to cultivate high school students' awareness of their rights and familiarity with the nature of our country's civic community. Each unit of the course is based on the text We the Students: Supreme Court Cases for and About Students, 3rd edition. Class discussions cover both doctrinal and social issues in the context of the school environment and young Americans' lives. Teaching Fellows and Assistants run each course almost entirely: they give lectures, lead discussions, and evaluate performance using a method derived from the Teach For America model.

The moot court unit: preparing students for advocacy

In the spring, moot court coaches join the core group of teachers in the classroom to help students with the fundamentals of oral argument and legal reasoning generally (recognizing which arguments are essential to winning a case, analogizing to case law, and assessing the relative weight of authority). The moot court unit lasts for about two months in the spring semester and culminates in the local moot court tournament, held in the law school building.

Proposed After-School Program: expanding opportunities for civic education in our community

This upcoming fall, we hope to expand our efforts in New Haven by opening an after-school program at another local school where students can engage in informal discussions about the same kinds of issues we are raising in the classroom. As our plans become more clear, we hope to describe in more detail the format of this program and its particular goals.