Sunday, March 8, 2009

March Madness...and Free Speech

It's time to be sure we are Marching toward the Exam!

Hard to believe it is March Madness already. Wow...time flies and May 4th will be here before we know it. We need to be sure to keep on schedule and get it all in. A tall order, especially for those of you who are semester only teachers. With most of us facing spring break in the next few weeks, the days are ticking off.

So dear readers, this week I will push on with the Bill of Rights and discuss the Free speech issue. We discussed incorporation a couple of weeks ago and last week the discussion of the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses has really set much of the ground work for this discussion. Again sites I would direct you to are Oyez, Findlaw, and I find that most of the discussions on Wikipedia concerning Court cases are pretty least to start. The students like the oral arguments that are easy to access on Oyez. My students have also found Cornell Law School's site helpful.

Again we don't want to bury the kids in too many cases, but here are some of the cases that we have to teach. I like to break the cases into pure speech and speech plus cases. This helps the kids sort them out a bit in their own minds.

Pure Speech Cases:
Schneck v. US... the "clear and present danger doctrine" (picture above from
Gitlow v. NY...incorporation of 1st Amendment free speech
Chaplinski v. New Hampshire...fighting words not protected
Bethal School District v. Fraser...student speech not totally protected

Are there others you would add to this list? I try to keep it pretty simple. The first two are critical for AP students, Chaplinski was once on the Exam, so I always teach it, and Fraser was a student case and the Exam likes to focus on those. For a full list of cases go to the Bill of Rights Institute site in the Teacher section and there is a very complete list of cases.

Speech Plus Cases:
  • Tinker v. Des Moines...symbolic speech by students is OK if not disruptive to the school
  • Johnson v. Texas...the flag burning case where the Court found flag burning was protected speech
  • US v. O'Brien...Draft card burning is not protected
  • Morse v. Frederick...the infamous Bong Hits for Jesus...probably not on AP yet, but will be some day...a set back on student right of speech but failed to reverse Tinker
Other Speech Cases:
  • Miller v. California...sets out the ruling for what is obscene
  • Buckley v. Veleo...reasonable limits on campaign contribution OK, but could not ban due to political speech issues
With the exception of Morse v. Frederick, all of the above cases have appeared on the AP Exam in either Free Response or Multiple Choice since I have been involved with AP. Don't expect the students to know all of the facts of each case, but knowing the general Court opinion should be a bottom line on these.

Next week I will continue with Free Press and Free Assembly cases. When I finish with my class discussions on cases, I will have the students make charts with the case name, Amendment, and 5-10 word Court finding. It will be a good study guide for them on May 3rd!

If you are off on Spring Break, have a great time. If not....labor on my friends...until then....

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