Censorship - Social Studies - Extend

Discussing Censorship and Its Impact

The topics and activities below further address issues raised in “Inherit the Wind” and the Scopes Trial:

Topic #1: The New York Times "Room for Debate: When Free Speech Feels Wrong"

  1. This activity provides a compelling look at the core principles of the First Amendment. If your school is a one-to-one school, provide students with "Room for Debate" link. Otherwise, print and copy each editorial in the series.
  2. Read the introduction to the debate aloud to the entire class. Ask students to hold their opinions for now.
  3. Split the students into six (6) small groups. Distribute the editorials and assign one opinion to each group. Instruct students to read, analyze and share their ideas about the author’s opinion. Encourage the students to discuss in their groups how well the author debates and qualifies his or her argument using the following questions:
      • What examples or what types of support does the author use?
      • Do they seem valid? Why or why not?
      • Are any exceptions to the author’s argument or any holes in his or her opinion.
  4. Group students into two groups to begin staging a debate. Students should choose who in the group assumes the following roles:
      • Opening Statement (1 student)
      • Major Arguments (2-3 students)
      • Rebuttal (2-3 students)
      • Closing Statement (1 student)
  5. Students from the “All Inclusive Free Speech Position” and “Exceptions for Free Speech Position” should share their readings, notes, examples of support, and valid argumentation.
  6. Encourage students to develop their own examples, using sound and valid reasoning and support.
  7. Students should type or hand-write notes, decide who will open and close the debate, and which students will argue their main points and positions for the debate in next class.
  8. Hand out copies of the Debate Rubric Worksheet to be used during presentations.

Topic #2: Arizona Ban on Ethnic Studies

This activity correlates directly with schools, what students are taught, and the information they have access to.

  1. Engage the students in a discussion about our education system using the following questions:
      • Who decides what is taught in schools?
      • What are some of the core subjects, topics, or skills that are taught? Why?
      • What is the general purpose of education in the United States?
      • Are the topics or subjects that are taught ever debated?
      • Do parents, teachers, or students ever object to certain topics? Why?
      • Can you give some examples?
      • What might be some reasons for teaching topics or subjects that some individuals might find offensive or have conflict with?
  2. Read The Los Angeles Times article "Arizona Bill Targeting Ethnic Studies Signed into Law" with your students and discuss their opinions.
  3. Listen to the NPR interview "Arizona Law Target Ethnic Studies" (or read the transcript) and discuss.
  4. Explain to students that the bill has some exceptions in it; for example, Native American studies can be taught. Discuss why politicians might allow such an exception.
      • Is it fair?
      • Are the histories of Mexican-Americans or Native Americans distinct?
      • Is one more significant than the other?
      • What about African-American history? Asian-American history?
      • What happens to a community or a society that does not teach its history?
      • How can the history of the United States’ expansion into the West and South be taught without discussing Mexican-American relations?
      • Is this type of censorship valid? Why or why not?
      • Are the arguments provided valid? Why or why not?