Can you teach freedom without allowing it?

Journalism training has a direct connection to the First Amendment, but not all student journalists receive a true First Amendment experience in high school.

Flashlight: Such organizations as the Student Press Law Center report dozens of stories each year about censorship of high school student media. Add to that school policies on social media. At those schools, do media restrictions hurt or encourage student knowledge and appreciation of the First Amendment? Does student newspaper censorship lead to the survey result that many students think government is allowed to censor news?

Spotlight: Hold a mock press conference, the teacher being interviewed by the class on his or her First Amendment and social media attitudes and knowledge. Ask students to create an infographic comparing the teacher’s answers to the answers in the latest Future of the First Amendment survey. You might want to look at this social media graphic for additional context. Discuss as a class and post your work online.

Searchlight: As a class project, create either a fake Twitter account or a fake Facebook account for James Madison, the author of the First Amendment. Students should imagine it is 1789, and they are James Madison. They are wondering what the “free speech” amendment to the Constitution should say and trying out various drafts. Make sure you include the drama between Madison, who at first didn’t think a Bill of Rights was needed, and Thomas Jefferson, who convinced him to write it. Make sure there are at least seven tweets or five Facebook posts per student.

Extra credit: Future of the First Amendment survey designers wrote a Neiman Reports article suggesting some remedies. They include enhancing curricula and allowing free expression. Ask students to research academic papers to try to find one on the topic of First Amendment education. Do these papers see a problem? If so, what remedies do they suggest? What remedies make the most sense?