Lesson 5: “Freedom of Speech…Always Protected?” (Grades 8-12)
Background: Citizens of the United States are taught from the very beginning that their right to free speech and press are perhaps the most sacred of all rights, and that it is uniformly protected in all circumstances…almost. From the very beginning of our national experiment with democracy, there have been numerous tests of just how free speech is in America, whether the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798 or the most recent Supreme Court case, Snyder v. Phelps, which ruled that peaceful protests can be held at military funerals as such protests are protected under the First Amendment. The Supreme Court in particular has had to step in many times to help define the boundaries of free speech, and with endlessly evolving information and communication technologies that job will become even more important in the future.
Without question, Americans look to their First Amendment right to free speech probably as much if not more than any other protection afforded to them under our Constitution and Bill of Rights; for that reason, it demands much attention. This lesson will seek to provide a background of some of the major free speech cases throughout our country’s history, where those rights have been allowed to be infringed upon by government, and where the courts have stepped in to prevent government from censoring speech.
Objective: At the conclusion of this lesson, students will have a thorough working knowledge and understanding of the significance of the first amendment to the constitution, the lengths to which people have gone to ensure that right is protected, and instances where our government has sought to quell certain types of speech and done so successfully. Specifically, students will be able to identify and explain the significance of the following:
Resources for Teachers:
DCPS Social Studies and National US History standards covered:
Virginia History and Social Science Standards of Learning covered:
Maryland State Social Studies Curriculum Standards covered: