FIRE’s High School Curriculum

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.

High school teachers who use FIRE’s materials are also encouraged to complete our feedback form to help with our materials’ continued development. (The first 100 teachers to do so will receive a $25 Amazon gift card.)

Questions and comments may be directed by email to highschooloutreach@thefire.org.

Constitution Day Lesson 2019

FIRE has prepared a special Constitution Day Lesson for 2019 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Handling Offensive Speech – Coming this Fall!

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. Includes:

  • Teaching Healthy Discourse Bonus Unit
  • Sticks and Stones: Coping with Offensive Speech (article)
  • 1-sheet on Responding to Bullying for Educators

Current Free Speech Issues – Coming this Fall!

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. 


For more details or to preview materials, write to highschooloutreach@thefire.org