Berkeley Digital Library

A Curriculum for Middle and High School Students

Freedom of Expression

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Topics Exhibits
The anarchist's definition of individual expression and government's reaction.
Free Speech
Differing perceptions and limits to free speech.
The First Amendment
Struggles to defend it and efforts to restrict its guarantees.
Force and violence as a tactic of societal control.
Journalistic bias in writing and in visual images.

Suggested Activities

Background to the Exhibits

The inequities that resulted from unrestricted industrial capitalism aroused criticism from many social observers. Plans for reform included calls for radical change. Emma Goldman called for revolutionary change rather than reform of the existing system. As an anarchist she envisioned a social order based on individual liberty and consensus unrestricted by law. She asserted in her autobiography, Living My Life, "I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody's right to beautiful, radiant things." The first documents in this section help explain Emma Goldman's attraction to and definition of anarchism and her experiences as an advocate of free speech. In Goldman's Definition of Anarchism, a romantic portrayal of the anarchist vision of the New World is illustrated in a Mother Earth cover. Emma Goldman, High Priestess of Anarchy, Political Cartoons, and The Spirit of Anarchy provide news accounts and political cartoons that convey the range of the public's perception and fears about Goldman, anarchists, and anarchism in general.

Believing deeply in anarchism's promise to transform society, Goldman became one of its most well-known spokespersons. A charismatic speaker, she called upon Americans to exercise fully their rights to self-expression. Her message challenged conventional morality and threatened political stability. She faced constant threats from police and vigilantes determined to suppress her talks. Undeterred by her many arrests and imprisonments, Goldman continued to assert her constitutional right to free speech.

Following the ASSASSINATION OF PRESIDENT MCKINLEY in 1901 by an anarchist, tolerance for free speech declined further. Liberal and RADICAL Americans reacted angrily by becoming more vocal in their opposition to the abridgement of First Amendment rights. The government's attempts to suppress Goldman's unconventional views often backfired, and led many who disagreed with her ideas to support her right to express them freely. Free Speech in Chicago highlights Emma Goldman's warning to the nation that restriction of the free expression of radical ideas would have serious consequences for the future of democracy in America. The Fight for Free Speech reveals organizational efforts to support the exercise of free speech. The San Diego Free Speech Incident describes a free speech fight in California in 1912. In her Meeting with Lenin, Goldman challenges the BOLSHEVIKS' repression of anarchists in Soviet Russia.

Suggested Activities

  1. Read the First Amendment. In your own words, what does it mean?

  2. Find contemporary political cartoons or create your own that portray a group using direct action as a political tactic. After seeing such cartoons are you more or less sympathetic to the group?

  3. If you were drawing a cartoon of this group would you make any changes in the cartoon?

  4. See what your textbook says about anarchism. Is this definition similar to or different from descriptions of anarchism found in these documents? Find out about Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thomas Jefferson, and John Brown. Relate their thoughts and actions to the philosophy of anarchism.

  5. Locate contemporary images that illustrate the concept, "freedom of expression." For example, posters, magazine ads, cartoons. Discuss your findings in class. Draw an illustration of your own.

  6. Analyze at least two editorials on any topic. Do you think these opinions are objective? Why or why not? Use these examples as models for writing your own editorial on a topic that interests you.

  7. Find newspaper articles that address the question of free speech today. Debate the opposing positions presented by the press.

  8. Divide students into groups. One group reviews the documents for arguments in favor of unlimited free speech; the other for arguments for limitations on free speech. Then, in debating team format, discuss the issues.

  9. Choose a document on any topic in this section to compare and contrast opposing views (i.e., Lenin's view of free speech vs. the view held by Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman). Identify the bias in each.

  10. Identify times and places in American history when free speech was at issue -- for example:
    1. opposition to America's involvement in war
    2. the abolitionist movement
    3. birth control
    4. the Berkeley free speech movement
    5. the Nazi parade in Skokie, Illinois
    6. Lenny Bruce
    7. consumer warning labels on music recordings
    8. rap musicians
    9. the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)
    10. the Ku Klux Klan
    11. communists.

    What were the circumstances surrounding the incidents? What similarities appear in these examples? What differences?

  11. Create a dramatic reading of the San Diego incident.

  12. Research the following Supreme Court decisions on free speech:
    1. Alien and Sedition Acts (1798)
    2. Schenck v. U.S. (1919)
    3. Tinker v. Des Moines Community School District (1969)
    4. Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (1986)
    5. Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988).

  13. Conduct a mock trial based on the Supreme Court decisions (Tinker, Fraser, and Hazelwood as cited above) on which the following scenarios are based:

    1. Students in a public high school wear black arm bands to class to protest the United States' involvement in the Gulf War. The school board orders the students to remove the bands or be expelled. Is the right of the students to wear arm bands protected by the First Amendment?

    2. A high school senior was suspended for delivering a nomination speech that included an explicit sexual term to describe his candidate. The senior was suspended. He argued that his speech caused no disruption and was protected by the First Amendment. Was the student's suspension an abuse of his First Amendment rights?

    3. A high school principal censored articles in the school paper dealing with the effects of divorce on students and with student pregnancies on the grounds that he was obliged to protect their privacy. The student editors claimed the principal violated their First Amendment rights of freedom of the press. Was the principal's decision in violation of the First Amendment?

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