FIRE’s 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.
FIRE’s curriculum draws on our 20 years of experience in actively defending free speech in academia, as well as our legal expertise and extensive scholar/educator network. These resources equip educators to foster appreciation and respect among students for freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the free exchange of diverse ideas.
Students will learn why their free speech rights are so valuable, how they are essential to learning and to democracy, and about their proven history in securing justice and fairness for disempowered and marginalized populations. Centered in social and emotional learning, these lessons demonstrate how basic rights can be threatened and illustrate ways to protect them. Likewise, students will discover why their own speech rights ultimately depend upon respecting others’ equivalent rights.
FIRE’s Free Speech Curriculum includes everything K-12 teachers need, from prepared PowerPoint slide decks to short, impactful videos. Based on existing learning standards, they include appropriate, engaging classroom activities along with meaningful assessments. Already in use by hundreds of educators across the country, FIRE’s Free Speech Curriculum provides a useful and necessary addition to every classroom concerned with cultivating active citizenship and rigorous, open discourse in the next generation.
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Black History Month Lesson
This featured lesson, centered on Frederick Douglass’ acclaimed defense of free expression entitled, “A plea for free speech in Boston,” is ideally suited for use during Black History Month. It is also appropriate for lessons on the First Amendment, minority rights, the perils of censorship, and the power of the spoken word.
The Philosophy of Free Speech
This unit reviews the unique inheritance of basic rights and freedoms bestowed on all American citizens by our founding documents, which draw from Enlightenment conceptions of liberty and individual human dignity. It also covers the essential role of open discourse and reasoning in examining evidence and seeking truth.
Constitution Day Lesson
FIRE has prepared a special Constitution Day Lesson to help educators communicate the background and value of their First Amendment Rights. This standards-based lesson includes a prepared PowerPoint slide deck, summarized reading materials, and accompanying discussion and critical thinking questions.
Speech, Power, and Censorship in American History
Free speech rights have proven themselves essential in securing a fair hearing for demands for justice and equal Constitutional protection for marginalized groups and isolated, targeted individuals throughout U.S. history. This module examines the crucial role of free speech in the Abolitionist, Women’s Suffrage, and Civil Rights movements.
The Law and Free Speech
The legal landscape for free speech was defined by the Supreme Court over the past century. This lesson explores the landmark cases and legal reasoning behind the strong speech protections that Americans uniquely enjoy, while correcting some common misconceptions. Topics include the importance of tolerating critical dissent in a democracy, the value of clashing opinions, and the reasons for responding to offensive speech with more speech, not censorship.
Debate Activity Kit
Students who wish to be effective, persuasive communicators must develop argumentation skills. This unit includes sample debate topics, instruction on how to form a powerful argument, and activities designed to help students build comfort with taking, defending, and challenging competing positions on controversial topics.
Handling Offensive Speech
This unit will address the social-emotional aspects of dealing with unwelcome but protected speech, and covers ways that students can build resilience, refutation, self-advocacy, and coping skills. The unit also includes a bonus section: Teaching Healthy Discourse.
Current Free Speech Issues – Coming soon!
From speech zones to speech codes, and from “hate speech” to safe spaces, this unit will explain what the Constitution actually requires, despite calls for the suppression of unwanted or unpopular speech on campus. It includes statements from leading academic institutions on the vital importance of open debate and unrestrained inquiry.
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