Bill of Rights Discussion Questions

Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha is a writer, editor, and aspiring novelist. She has a Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology and another Masters in Museum Studies.

The Bill of Rights provides a basis for students to understand the founding freedoms and principles of the United States. This lesson provides a variety of discussion questions to help students gain a better understanding of the Bill of Rights.

Bill of Rights

The Declaration of Independence, adopted in 1776, created a whole new world for the colonies, and the freedom and power they gained following the American Revolution was both exhilarating and frightening. During the subsequent decade, leaders of our new country determined the need for more structure, while still maintaining the colonies' hard-won freedoms. So in 1791, they ratified the Bill of Rights. The use of the Bill of Rights to narrow the power of the government is an intrinsic part of American history.

The Bill of Rights consists of the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which was signed in 1787. It can form the basis for some interesting discussion questions on some of the most important laws and rights for the American people.

Opinion-Based Questions

When trying to initiate a large class discussion, beginning with questions based on opinions can get it off to a lively start. Since opinions are technically never 'wrong', they allow students to feel emboldened to answer.

  • The First Amendment guarantees us freedom of speech, so people can say what they want, even if it hurts another person. Where does freedom of speech end and bullying begin?
  • Religious orientation or practice, also guaranteed by the First Amendment, became an issue after September 11, 2001. Why do you think that happened? Do you think there's a way to address freedom of religion in relation to extremism? How? Would it help make the United States of America safer?
  • What are your opinions on the right to bear arms, as guaranteed by the Second Amendment? Do you think it is everyone's right to own a gun? Why or why not?
  • The Fifth Amendment includes the famous clause, which allows you to ''plead the fifth'' and refuse to say anything incriminating about yourself in court. Why do you think this right is important for people's freedom?
  • Some criminal trials can last months, depending on their complexity; do you believe they adhere to the right to a speedy trial, as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment? Why or why not?
  • Cruel and unusual punishment is forbidden by the Eighth Amendment in the Bill of Rights. Think about the death penalty; does this fall into the category of cruel and unusual punishment? Why or why not? Do you think eliminating the death penalty would require an overhaul of the penal system? If so, how?
  • What do you think is the most important amendment in the Bill of Rights? Why?
  • If the same men were creating the Bill of Rights today, do you think the amendments would be the same? Why or why not?
  • Do you think the Bill of Rights is still effective? Why or why not? If not, how could it be updated?
  • If you could create an amendment that would have been part of the Bill of Rights, what would it be? Would your new amendment address rights covered in the original ten?
  • If you could substitute an amendment in the Bill of Rights with a later one to the U.S. Constitution, which one would it be, and why?
  • If you could create a Bill of Rights for your class, what amendments would it have?

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