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Free Speech or Hate Speech?


This lesson plan is designed to be used with the film The Fire Next Time to look at what happens when free speech dissolves into hate speech. The hour-long documentary looks at a two-year period in the life of a dangerously divided town and shows how heated rhetoric can devolve into hate, intimidation, and violence. Students learn about first amendment rights and limitations, and conflict management skills.
Curriculum Link: Author: McCrel (Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning)

Expected Student Outcomes/Objectives

• Know the difference between protected and prohibited speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment.
• Understand why free speech is essential to a democracy.
• Consider how best to deal with speech they find offensive.
• See how speech can escalate or de-escalate a conflict.
• Craft a speech code for their school.

Description of Activities

After reviewing what kinds of speech are protected or prohibited by the First Amendment, students review the Amendment and Supreme Court commentary before watching the film, “The Fire Next Time,” or excerpts from the film. Students then discuss the issues raised by the film and brainstorm ways to deal with speech that might be offensive but not illegal.

Culminating Activity and/or Assessment

Based on what they have learned about what is legal and the potential impact of hate speech, assign each student to write a speech policy section for your school's student handbook. Be sure they include responsibilities of "speakers" as well as rights.

Instructional Materials Needed

DVD player

Instructional Materials Provided

Handout and DVD

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Additional criteria

Cost: Free

Curriculum type: Lesson

Academic subject areas: History/Social Sciences; English

States' Career Clusters: Law, Public Safety, Corrections & Secruity; Government & Public Administration

California Industry sector(s): Public Services

Duration: 3-5 class periods

Grade Targets: 9, 10, 11, 12

Level of Expertise for CTE: Concentration/Skill building

Standards Addressed: Detailed documentation of alignment with Common Core, NGSS, C3 or CTE Standards provided

Source: Organization/Publisher-developed

Curriculum Link:

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