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30-60 minutes
  • Constitution
  • Current Events
  • Journalism
  • Religious Liberty
  • 7-12
  • College/University

  1. Select a Critical Debate from the Free Speech Essentials EDCollection below. Review the case study and the corresponding background information.   
  2. Distribute copies of the debate case study to your students. Do NOT reveal the background to your students until after they have completed their debate. Read the scenario as a class and discuss it to make sure that students understand what the controversy is and why it has arisen.
  3. Break the class into small groups and either assign or allow them to pick a debate position. Give each group a copy of the Organizing Evidence worksheet and allow approximately 30 minutes for the groups to complete it by coming up with their arguments and looking at the online artifact gallery of sources (on the Critical Debate webpage) and gather evidence. Be sure to tell your students to look at the captions for the artifacts for clues to what they contain and which positions they might support.
  4. Give each group a copy of the Presenting Your Position worksheet and allow approximately 10 minutes for the groups to organize how they will share their arguments; then have each group present to the class.
  5. Talk about the various positions and arguments using the questions on the case study to prompt discussion and debate among the groups. Attempt to arrive at a class consensus in support of one position. Questions to guide the debate:
  • Which position has the most arguments and evidence to back it up?
  • Which arguments do you think are the strongest? Why? (Consider how much evidence backs them up, how likely they are they to persuade someone new to this issue, etc.)
  • What would be the immediate and long-term impacts of taking this position?
  • How would this position affect the people directly involved in this issue? What precedents would it set for the future or for people beyond this specific situation?
  1. Explain what happened in the real-life scenario using the background information and have a wrap-up conversation using the following questions.
  • How did the First Amendment play a role in sparking and/or resolving this controversy?
  • Which group in your class debate had the strongest arguments? Why?
  • Which position won out in real life? Do you agree with this outcome? Do you think it would have the same outcome if similar events took place today? Why or why not?
  • What other current or historical issues does this situation remind you of?

  • Copies of the selected Critical Debate case study from the Free Speech Essentials EDCollection (download from the selected Critical Debate webpage), one per student
  • Organizing Evidence and Presenting Your Position worksheets (in lesson plan download), one per small group
  • Background for selected Critical Debate (download from the selected Critical Debate webpage), for teacher
  • Access to the online artifact gallery of print and visual sources for your selected case study

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