FantasySCOTUS and Harlan Institute Featured in Fairfax Times

October 19th, 2010

The Fairfax County Times just ran a featured piece in their educational section on FantasySCOTUS and the Harlan Institute. Here is a taste:

With autumn comes fantasy leagues, all night “draft picks” and clinical-like research on key players’ stats. The competitive- minded place bets on everything — sports teams, races and even election results.

Why not place odds on U.S. Supreme Court verdicts?

The article also focuses on the Harlan Institute’s creation of, a Fantasy Supreme Court league for High School Students.

The quick rise to success led Blackman and fellow players to create a game-program for high school students, with the hope it will raise awareness for constitutional law in classrooms across the nation.

The Harlan Institute has created lesson plans on five cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, including Snyder v. Phelps, which tackles the debate between free verses hate speech brought on by protesters outside of a military service member’s funeral, and Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association, which will decide whether restricting the sale of violent video games is a free speech violation.

Teachers have really latched onto FantasySCOTUS.

Fellow Mason law grad Mattias Caro, 30 of Great Falls, who was a history teacher, serves on the Harlan Institutes Teacher Advisory Network for Fairfax County.

“Right now, where we have so much demand with Standards of Learning … we’re giving them something set. They don’t have to do lesson planning. They can just pick up the ball running,” Caro said. “This is trying to get the kids really into learning about the Supreme Court. When you teach the Supreme Court, it’s really in a very limited way [focusing on past cases]. They may learn about Dred Scott … or even Roe v. Wade. It’s a very distant thing to them; but it shouldn’t be.

“We’re really trying to get them to see both sides of these issues. As a teacher that’s something you’re trying to build up to.”

Caro said he has been surprised by the feedback so far, especially the students’ enthusiasm for studying the Supreme Court this way. Fifty schools in the nation already have signed up to play. Of those, one is in Virginia, in the Virginia Beach area, Aft said.

For now, the Harlan Institute is aiming to expand its base among educators by visiting classrooms and promoting the program.

“This isn’t just for the students who are the future policy wonks,” Caro said.