Please read the following texts:
- Atkins v. Virginia from Wikipedia (We did this in class, already.)
- The majority opinion, written by Justice Stevens of the Supreme Court of the United States (Yes! This one! Read this one!!!)
- The dissenting opinion, written by Justice Scalia of the Supreme Court of the United States (We will do this in class tomorrow, so don’t do it tonight. Still, it’s here if you are interested.)
If, for some reason, these links don’t work, please go to the handouts page of our website. They are listed there, all under “Atkins v. Virginia.”
These texts may be challenging for you, but you should that you can read the actual opinions handed down by the Supreme Court. Not bad for 13 or 14-year-olds!
Remember the strategies we talked about in class: Notice when you are not understanding something. Knowing you have a problem is the first step to solving it! Talk to a friend about it. Read over any responses already posted here. They may help you understand more about the text even before you read it. Re-read. I often have to re-read difficult texts several times and even then I may not fully understand.
Here are some strategies that help me:
- I go back to where I last had a clue and re-read from there.
- If the text is really, really hard for me (as this one is, I must admit) I look over the whole thing and try to get a sense of organization of the text. Are there sections that have headings? If there are, I read it section by section keeping the heading in mind as a guide. If there is no heading or title, I try to think what the heading. might be if there were one.
- For the most difficult texts that I read I go paragraph by paragraph and think about (or even jot down) what the gist of each paragraph is. This is time consuming and rather annoying, but it works for me with really, really difficult non-fiction.
- TURN OFF THE NOISE! That means no computer open (if I’m not actually reading online), no music playing, no texting while you read. Multi-tasking is a myth. Difficult tasks require real concentration.
- Be kind to yourself. This is really hard stuff, and it’s your first time (I assume?) that you are reading actual legal documents. Do not get so frustrated that you scrunch the paper up and throw it across the room! Keep breathing. You’ll be fine.
For your written response here, please give your understanding of the case and Justice Stevens’ reasons for his opinion. Then, explain whether you agree or disagree with Justice Stevens or not. How would you find if you were on the Supreme Court?