Teaching Free Speech and Political Literacy in an Authoritarian Age
Chapter 3. The Meaning of Free Speech
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THE MEANING OF FREE SPEECH
What teachers can and cannot say is rarely defined as dramatically as in the infamous Scopes Trial of the 1920s in which John Scopes, a public school teacher in Dayton, Tennessee, was prosecuted for teaching the theory of evolution in defiance of the state’s Butler Act. Scopes was eventually acquitted on a technicality regarding the imposition of a $100 fine but the case drew enormous attention to issues surrounding the proper social role of public education and the separation of Church and State. This was a galvanizing trial that featured two high profile attorneys of the day, Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan, who seemed to embody the competing ideals of conservative virtue and liberal tolerance. Similar issues were subsequently raised in a number of school prayer cases including Engel v. Vitale, 307 U.S. 421 (1962), Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971), and School District of Abington Township v. Schem pp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963) (Jenkins, 2008, p. 598). Indeed, in addition to secularism and the content of public education there are always hot button education topics in the media, including those surrounding issues such as sexuality, same sex rights, and abortion. Such issues illustrate a common feature of education and the law since they both deal with the fundamental issue of the type of society we want to live in, and our social institutions need to balance the competing demands of social stability and cultural change.
In Canada, Chamberlain...
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