While FIRE’s primary mission since 1999 has been defending the civil liberties of college students and faculty, we have long recognized the urgency of reaching high school students and encouraging them to discuss First Amendment-related issues earlier in their educational careers. Having exhibited at numerous K-12 educator conferences in the past couple of years, we’ve also become aware that, among teachers, there is significant interest in teaching about issues related to the First Amendment, as well as in finding materials that can make the subject matter accessible both to educators and their students. This fall, with the unveiling of our new First Amendment-centered high school curriculum, we’re making our biggest push yet into this important sector by providing First Amendment resources for teachers.
Available free to educators (and anyone else interested in burnishing their own First Amendment bona fides), these materials cover the philosophy, history, and law behind our primary constitutional protections. We have been busy previewing our new K-12 curriculum at educator conferences, and it is already showing up in classrooms across the country.
In our unit on The Philosophy of Free Speech, students are introduced to Enlightenment thinkers and are exposed to writings such as John Milton’s “Areopagitica,” John Locke’s “Letter Concerning Toleration,” and John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty.”
Our unit Speech, Power, and Censorship in American History covers the essential role that free speech played in achieving major political and social reforms including abolishing slavery, securing the vote for women, and establishing civil rights for all, as well as the government’s frequent efforts to censor speech promoting these and other causes.
In our unit on The Law and Free Speech, learners will explore early landmark Supreme Court rulings such as Schenck v. United States, Abrams v. United States, Whitney v. California, and United States v. Schwimmer. These famous cases helped lay the modern foundation of free speech in the United States as we understand it today.
The curriculum modules include teaching standards and learning objectives, prepared and editable PowerPoint lectures with notes, reading selections, discussion and critical thinking questions, classroom activities, suggested assignments, a test bank, and anything else an educator would need to easily incorporate enhanced free speech content into existing lesson plans.
FIRE has received excellent constructive feedback on our materials throughout the past year from teachers around the country, and we want to keep hearing from you! We are also excited to be able to offer $50 Amazon gift cards as a “thank you” to the first 100 educators who download the materials and complete our feedback form. Please share this opportunity with your favorite teachers!
FIRE has even more exciting K-12 initiatives in the works, including an online free speech course, a new series of “FIRE Starter” videos providing brief primers on key First Amendment cases, and an upcoming free speech-themed graphic novella — all expected this fall!
To learn more about our curriculum and high school outreach efforts, visit our K-12 FAQ or email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. To stay up-to-date on our expanding K-12 efforts, add your name to our High School Outreach mailing list.
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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 Free Speech Curriculum modules help educators enrich and supplement their existing instruction on First Amendment and freedom of expression issues in middle and high school classrooms.