Why a great education means engaging with controversy

Jonathan Zimmerman explains why teachers should invite, not censor, tough classroom debates.

Sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies
  • During times of war or national crisis in the U.S., school boards and officials are much more wary about allowing teachers and kids to say what they think.
  • If our teachers avoid controversial questions in the classroom, kids won't get the experience they need to know how to engage with difficult questions and with criticism.
  • Jonathan Zimmerman argues that controversial issues should be taught in schools as they naturally arise. Otherwise kids will learn from TV news what politics looks like – which is more often a rant than a healthy debate.
Keep reading Show less

Free speech: The history every American should know

What can and can't you say? A brief glimpse of precedent-setting free speech cases in the United States.

Sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies
  • There's a reason you're free to wear clothing with protest statements on them today. In 1968, 19-year-old Paul Robert Cohen was arrested for disturbing the peace by wearing a jacked that read "F*ck the Draft" in a California courthouse. His case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided that being offended by the jacket did not merit censorship.
  • Jonathan Zimmerman argues that the history of debate in the U.S. – of who gets to say what, and how that has evolved – should be taught to every American.
  • Zimmerman also says it's ahistorical for free speech to be cast as a conservative issue. For much of U.S. history, champions of free speech were those who fought for social justice to help the powerless keep the only power they had: their voices.
Keep reading Show less