Brush up on First Amendment facts with FIREStarter videos

January 7, 2019

Even if you don’t have the time to become a First Amendment scholar, you do have the time to watch FIRE’s new FIREStarter videos and enhance your understanding of some of the bedrock cases underpinning our constitutional right to free expression.

FIRE recently teamed up with noted First Amendment expert David L. Hudson to produce a series of micro-videos specially designed to make challenging legal topics accessible and comprehensible to anyone. These short lessons — each under three minutes in length — encapsulate the key facts and essential rulings in landmark court decisions establishing our modern free speech rights. Building First Amendment literacy means covering the basics, and FIREStarters make complex ideas approachable for younger audiences and busy people.

We’re pleased to announce that the first 10 videos in our FIREStarter video series are now available for streaming on FIRE’s Youtube channel. They cover the following seminal Supreme Court cases:

West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 1943

New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 1964

Pickering v. Board of Education, 1968

Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District, 1969

Cohen v. California, 1971

Bethel School District v. Fraser, 1986

Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 1988

Texas v. Johnson, 1989

Garcetti v. Ceballos, 2006

Morse v. Frederick, 2007

Hudson explains in West Virginia v. Barnette how the government cannot compel speech. In Tinker v. Des Moines, you will learn that students’ constitutional rights do not end at the schoolhouse gate, while in NYT v. Sullivan, you will discover why this key ruling “saved the Civil Rights movement.” These concise summaries are ideally suited for use by educators and can help ignite First Amendment curiosity in the classroom. FIREStarters provide a quick but thorough grounding in core American liberties, the history behind them, and the reasons why they are important enough for our courts to protect them.

We’ve even created a folder where educators can quickly download the first 10 FIREStarter videos as MP4s to use in classroom lessons without having to rely on internet streaming. [Note: these downloadable videos contain PG-versions of the Cohen and Bethel cases, which involved R-rated language.]

If you’re a fan of the First Amendment and you like learning opportunities that are short, sweet, and to the point, then FIREStarters are right for you. Be sure to share them with students, friends, and anyone interested in fine-tuning their understanding of free speech. If you’re hungry for even more information after consuming them, we recommend checking out our newly released High School Curriculum Materials and the ongoing updates to our First Amendment Library. And stay tuned, because we’ll be adding more FIREStarters in the months ahead.

In need of First Amendment resources for teachers? The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has you covered. Our “First Things First” First Amendment textbook for college undergraduates explores the fundamentals of modern American free speech law. Meanwhile, our K-12 First Amendment curriculum modules help educators enrich and supplement their existing instruction on First Amendment and freedom of expression issues in middle and high school classrooms. Explore for even more First Amendment educational resources.