Respecting Freedom of Speech

Lesson Duration

Author:  Bill of Rights Institute and the National Constitution Center

In the course of this lesson, students will consider the point where respect and freedom of expression intersect. For homework the night before, students are asked to review the language of the First Amendment, as well as examine their definition of respect by responding to a writing prompt. The next day, students are asked to consider five controversial instances of “free speech” and participate in a discussion that attempts to draw the distinction between: private versus government action regarding speech; rights of the speakers and rights of the listener; and right to free speech and responsibility to act or speak with respect. What role does freedom of expression play in maintaining a free and open society?


  • write a one page response defining “respect”
  • analyze the language of the First Amendment concerning freedom of speech
  • distinguish between government and private restrictions on freedom of speech
  • distinguish between constitutional and societal limits on freedom of speech
  • apply an understanding of “freedom of speech” and “respect” to various situations



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