Sunday, September 19, 2010

Quick! Talk to Me About Free Speech

I am putting the finishing touches on my course notes for the first class of
The Right to Offend: Freedom of Speech in America.

And I am just a wee bit panicky.

I feel like I'm overlooking something.

I'd love to hear from you, dear readers. If you were attending a community education course for mature learners (aged 55+) over the span of five weeks, meeting once a week for two hours, (ie we have ten hours to cover everything) what would you want to learn?

What topics would you find most interesting?

What specific examples of free speech issues in action would you enjoy discussing?

Use those free speech rights! Comment now!

I am all ears.

Admittedly, this is not really a picture of me. But I thought it would make you laugh, and then maybe be more inclined to share your brain. Well, not your actual brain....just your ideas.

PS Bonus points for cool things I can share with the class. I found one neat clip tonight:


Mrs. Chili said...

I LOVE to teach the First Amendment!!! SO many people do not clearly understand what, exactly, it means, and EVERY SINGLE TIME I trot the First out, it leads to literally DAYS of really great conversations.

I make a big deal about the line between FEDERALLY protected speech and the dumb things people say that get them into WORLDS of trouble in CIVIC life. I used to use the ruckus that Don Imus raised back in 2007 with his comment about the Rutgers' women's basketball team, but not many of my students remember that. For a while, I was using the "lynch him" comment that Kelley Tilghman made on the Golf Channel - and the decision of GOLF magazine to feature a noose on its cover the following month - but even that was too long ago for most of my kids to relate to.

Really, ANY of the dumbass talk radio losers could serve as a good example of protected speech; Beck calls the President a racist in public, people march on the Mall all the time, we can cover our cars in bumper stickers that criticize the government. That doesn't mean that we can call our bosses names, though, or that we can threaten someone with harm. The line isn't that narrow, really, but most people don't fully appreciate the world of freedoms that it represents.

Kathy Amen said...

The American Library Association's Freedom to Read Foundation might have some useful tidbits: Particularly, look at their information on historically banned books. I always find it amazing what titles are on it!

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I had a recent incident where I was vilified for a letter to the editor of a local paper. Rep. Duncan Hunter (the younger) was walking in our 4th of July parade. He left the parade route to comment to my neighbor who was wearing a "Jesus Saves" shirt that he'd heard a good one the other day--"Jesus Saves, Obama Spends."

My letter made the point that this was a rude and graceless comment that didn't honor that the 4th of July was a non-partisan holiday. (Forget assuming that all religious people are Republicans).

The responses to my letter were that I ought to move to a country that didn't allow free speech since I didn't believe in it. Ummm, no. I didn't ask for him to be arrested, I just suggested he ought to have better timing.

stephanie (bad mom) said...

Well, as you know I am used to teaching IMmature learners but I'll try to be some help...

I think the rampant use of profanity in public (ahem) might be of interest. Or perhaps the rights of bloggers to discuss the actions of others, with or without using names or identifying characteristics. Heh.

You will be marvelous as always :)

Common Household Mom said...

It might be interesting to look at the free speech rights (or lack thereof) of school-aged people (High-school & college). For instance, at most high schools, students are not allowed to wear t-shirts bearing inflammatory words. I think the legal reasoning is that the need to maintain an orderly and nonviolent learning environment overrides free speech rights for this segment of the population. Anyone who has spent time at a high school can see that this makes sense, but how far should the rules be allowed to go?

mommapolitico said...

There's a great speech in the movie The American President in which the president makes a speech to his opponent. He talks about America being "advanced citizenship," about protecting the kind of speech that makes your blood boil because it's as protected as that you hold dear. Might be a good clip to use along the way.

How about the recent Citizens United decision. Now that corporations are citizens, do they have the same free speech rights as you and I do? And what kind of implications does that bring?

And what about hate speech? Where and how do we draw the line?

Sure would love to audit your class - sounds like a blast.