8th Grade New York

Japanese American Internment

This eighth grade annotated inquiry places students in the middle of an important debate—a debate that goes beyond semantics and hypothetical constructs. The trade-off between freedom and security is one of the thorniest dilemmas in United States history. From the Sedition Act of 1798 to the Patriot Act of 2001, the United States has sought to find the right balance between these two fundamental concerns. This inquiry places students in the middle of that important debate—a debate that goes beyond semantics and hypothetical constructs. The compelling question asks what limits we are willing to place on freedom in the face of real and perceived threats to our security. The internment of Japanese Americans represents one instance when the freedom of some Americans was sacrificed in the name of national security and thus can be seen as a case of the balance between freedom and security. The inquiry includes four related formative performance tasks that collectively enable students to build up their knowledge of the issues and events related to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and the resulting lawsuit, Korematsu v. United States, which challenged the constitutionality of the internment policy. Students continue the inquiry as they investigate the reconsideration of internment by the US government in the 1980s.

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Compelling Question:

Should Freedom Be Sacrificed in the Name of National Security?

Staging the Question: Consider the limits of personal freedom by taking a position on a series of current issues through a Four Corners activity.
1

Supporting Question What were the reasons for and against Japanese American exclusion and internment?

Formative Task Create a list of stated or implied reasons for and against the exclusion of people of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast made during the 1942 debate over West Coast security.

Sources Source A: Excerpts from Walter Lippmann and Lt. Gen. J. L. DeWitt
Source B: Cartoon and editorial from the "San Francisco News"
Source C: Excerpts from Attorney General Frances Biddle and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover
Source D: Dorothea Lange camp photographs

2

Supporting Question How did internment disrupt Japanese Americans’ lives?

Formative Task Write a paragraph describing how life was disrupted for interned Japanese Americans.

Sources Source A: Toku Machida Shimomura diary entries
Source B: Dorothea Lange photograph, "I Am an American"
Source C: Images from three online collections focused on internment camps

3

Supporting Question How did the 1944 case Korematsu v. United States illustrate division in the United States over exclusion policy?

Formative Task Complete a graphic organizer comparing arguments from the majority and dissenting opinions in Korematsu v. United States.

Sources Source A: Excerpts from "Korematsu v. United States"
Source B: Excerpts from the United States Constitution

4

Supporting Question What were the arguments in favor of and against the 1988 Civil Liberties Act and reparations payments to Japanese Americans?

Formative Task Develop a claim supported by evidence in favor of or opposed to the Civil Liberties Act.

Sources Source A: Excerpts from the "Conference Report on H.R. 442, Civil Liberties Act of 1988"
Source B: Civil Liberties Act of 1988
Source C: Presidential apologies for Japanese American internment from George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton

Summative Performance Task

Argument: Should freedom be sacrificed in the name of national security? Construct an argument (e.g., detailed outline, poster, or essay) using specific claims and relevant evidence from historical sources while acknowledging competing views.
Extension: Craft a statement that could be used in a court on the question of how to balance freedom and security.

Taking Informed Action

Understand: Using the Question Formulation Technique (QFT), brainstorm a list of contemporary local, regional, and/or national issues where freedom and security are in tension.
Assess: Determine how to contribute to the debate on the contemporary example of the freedom versus security debate.
Act: Determine how to contribute to the debate on the contemporary example of the freedom versus security debate.