ERIC Number: ED344268
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1991-Oct
Reference Count: N/A
Teaching the Tyrants: Perspectives on Freedom of Speech and Undergraduates.
Herbeck, Dale A.
Teaching freedom of speech to undergraduates is a difficult task, in part as a result of the challenging history of free expression in the United States. The difficulty is compounded by the need to teach the topic, in contrast to indoctrinating the students in an ideology of free speech. The Bill of Rights, and specifically the First Amendment, appear simple and clear, but they are not as transparent as some have suggested. The First Amendment has been hard to interpret from its inception, and its meaning continues to evolve through numerous court cases. Despite claims to the contrary, American society has frequently failed to demonstrate a commitment to freedom of expression. Considering the sporadic and inconsistent history of free expression in America, teaching such a history is arduous. In light of this context, teachers of free expression must avoid the temptation to ground freedom of speech solely in historical claims. Laws such as the First Amendment can be reinterpreted by each succeeding generation, according to Thomas Jefferson. Accordingly, freedom of speech should be oriented more toward the future. Further, teachers should concentrate on the core principles justifying freedom of expression, while avoiding the various peripheral issues. Recently, for example, the legal code surrounding the First Amendment has expanded rapidly, rivaling that of the Internal Revenue Service. It is vital that teachers recognize the significance of First Amendment principles with the objective that students might be trained to avoid the intolerance that has often marked the American social scene. (Forty-eight footnotes are included.) (HB)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Bill of Rights; Educational Issues; First Amendment; Jefferson (Thomas); Legal History; United States Constitution
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Speech Communication Association (77th, Atlanta, GA, October 31-November 3, 1991).