THE LIFE AND TIMES OF EMMA GOLDMAN
A Curriculum for Middle and High School Students
Freedom of Expression
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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
of the anarchist vision of the New World is illustrated in a Mother
Earth cover. Emma Goldman, High Priestess of
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
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.
ASSASSINATION OF PRESIDENT MCKINLEY
in 1901 by an anarchist,
tolerance for free speech declined further. Liberal and
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
repression of anarchists in
- Read the First Amendment. In your own words, what does it mean?
- 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?
- If you were drawing a cartoon of this group would you make any changes in the cartoon?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Find newspaper articles that address the question of free speech today. Debate the opposing positions presented by the press.
- 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.
- 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.
- Identify times and places in American history when free speech was at issue -- for example:
- opposition to America's involvement in war
- the abolitionist movement
- birth control
- the Berkeley free speech movement
- the Nazi parade in Skokie, Illinois
- Lenny Bruce
- consumer warning labels on music recordings
- rap musicians
- the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)
- the Ku Klux Klan
What were the circumstances surrounding the incidents? What similarities appear in these examples? What differences?
- Create a dramatic reading of the San Diego incident.
- Research the following Supreme Court decisions on free speech:
- Alien and Sedition Acts (1798)
- Schenck v. U.S. (1919)
- Tinker v. Des Moines Community School District (1969)
- Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (1986)
- Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988).
- Conduct a mock trial based on the Supreme Court decisions (Tinker, Fraser, and Hazelwood as cited above) on which the following scenarios are based:
- 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?
- 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?
- 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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