Free Speech Essentials

Do your students know what they’re free to say online? At school? On a public street corner? From censorship to cyberbullying, the First Amendment and the freedoms it protects are as hotly contested as ever. This EDCollection explores 16 free speech debates ranging from the founding of our nation to recent headlines to illustrate what free speech actually means, where it comes from, and how far it can go. Whether you’re a social studies teacher looking for a complete unit or an English teacher looking to spend a single class period on free expression, there’s something for everyone. Free registration required.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission v. American Humanist Association (2019)

Does a local government’s display and maintenance of a 40-foot tall Latin cross on public property, established in memory of fallen World War I soldiers, violate the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause? This case summary shows how the Supreme Court answered this question in 2019.

  • Resource Type: Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades:

James Madison and the First Amendment

This short video traces the evolution of Madison’s attitude towards the religious liberty guarantees of the First Amendment. Initially opposed to a Bill of Rights as both inappropriate and dangerous, Madison’s views changed as a result of political and philosophical considerations. Professor Jeffry Morrison emphasizes Madison’s belief that religion should play a vital but informal role in the life of the republic.

  • Resource Type: Video
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 11, 12

Locke v. Davey (2004)

Does the Free Exercise Clause require states to fund religious instruction if providing merit-based college scholarships for secular instruction? This case summary shows how the Supreme Court answered that question in 2004.

  • Resource Type: Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

The Pursuit of Justice

The Pursuit of Justice book, written by Kermit L. Hall and John J. Patrick, analyzes 30 Supreme Court cases chosen by a group of Supreme Court justices and leading civics educators as the most important for American citizens to understand. An additional 100 significant cases included in state history and civics standards are summarized. The complete book or individuals chapters can be downloaded.

  • Resource Type: Books
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Freedom and Religion: A Lesson Plan on “The May-Pole of Merry Mount”

What kind of religious beliefs and practices support civic freedom and virtue? Compare two guiding ideas of the American republic—the pursuit of happiness and the spirit of reverence—as editors Amy A. Kass, Leon R. Kass, and Diana Schaub discuss Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story with Yuval Levin (Ethics and Public Policy Center). Includes a discussion guide and model conversation.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Primary Sources, Video
  • Subject: Citizenship
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Constitutional Index – Raise and Support Armies Clause

The Constitutional Index breaks down the U.S. Constitution by Section, Amendment, and Clause and contains broader topics and themes. These are used to cross-reference Library resources in an effort to annotate constitutional history.

  • Resource Type: Primary Sources, Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Legislative Branch/Congress
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The Press and the Civil Rights Movement

Civil rights leaders effectively used the First Amendment and the press to expose the injustices of racial segregation. Reporters who covered the civil rights struggle give up close and personal accounts. Learn more about the First Amendment’s power to bring about profound social change and the role and challenges a free press embraces when tackling controversial issues.

  • Resource Type: Closed Captions, Lesson Plans, Video
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12