First Amendment: Speech

Upcoming Scholar Exchange: First Amendment: Speech and Press

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Constitutional Questions

When and why can the government limit speech—and when can’t it?

In this lesson, students examine the historical context and the drafting of the First Amendment by examining the motivations of  the Founding generation. Students will also examine various types of “speech,” such as symbolic speech, hate speech, and political speech, to address the scope of protections promised by the First Amendment and learn that speech can only be limited when it is intended to and likely to cause imminent violence. In each instance, students will explore when the government has some authority to restrict speech; areas of consensus among scholars, judges, and citizens; the strongest constitutional arguments on each side of contested issues; and U.S. Supreme Court cases that have addressed free speech rights. Students will use the National Constitution Center’s Interactive Constitution to look at the viewpoints of legal scholars on free speech, where they agree and where there are matters of debate. This lesson can pair with the lesson on Freedom of the Press.

Video: Speech and Press Lesson Part I
Video: Speech and Press Lesson Part II
Video: Speech and Press Scholar Exchange

Classroom Materials

First Amendment: Speech Lesson

This lesson encourages students to examine their own assumptions and to deepen their understanding of current, accepted interpretations of speech rights under the First Amendment, including when and where speech is protected and/or limited. It should reinforce the robustness of the First Amendment protections of speech.

Download Lesson Plan

Read the Interpretations

Common Interpretation

Freedom of Speech and the Press

by Geoffrey R. Stone and Eugene Volokh


Matters of Debate

Fixing Free Speech

by Geoffrey R. Stone


Frontiers for Free Speech

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