Essay Contest
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The Details

Eligibility

Open to juniors and seniors in U.S. high schools, including home-schooled students, as well as U.S. citizens attending schools overseas. Additional questions regarding eligibility may be emailed to essaycontest@thefire.org.

Word Length

Students must submit an essay between 800 and 1,000 words on the provided topic below.

Deadline

FIRE must receive all entries by December 31, 2017. Winners will be announced by January 31, 2018.

Scholarship Prizes

One $10,000 first prize, one $5,000 second prize, and three $1,000 runner-up prizes will be awarded for the best essays. Four $500 winners will be chosen from the remaining entrants in a drawing.

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Before You Start

Get to know us! The mission of FIRE is to defend and sustain individual rights at America’s colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience—the essential qualities of individual liberty and dignity. In addition to defending the rights of students and faculty, FIRE works to educate students and the general public on the necessity of free speech and its importance to a thriving democratic society.

In addition to watching the below videos, we encourage you to take advantage of our other educational resources, including our First Amendment Library, our continually-updated Newsdesk, and our many publications, including our Guide to Free Speech on Campus.

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Watch The Videos

Before you begin your essay, we ask applicants to familiarize themselves with FIRE’s work by watching these two short videos about real students who faced censorship and punishment for exercising their right to free speech.

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The Prompt

The freedom of speech, enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution, is a foundational American right. Nowhere is that right more important than on our college campuses, where the free flow of ideas and the clash of opposing views advance knowledge and promote human progress. It is on our college campuses, however, where some of the most serious violations of free speech occur, and where students are regularly censored simply because their expression might offend others.

Drawing on the above videos and any other resources available on FIRE’s website, explain in 800-1000 words why free speech is so important to higher education, and why censorship undermines the ideals of liberal education and a free society.

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