Program seeks First Amendment-friendly schools

In an effort to transform how free speechrights are taught, the First Amendment Center along with the Association forSupervision and Curriculum Development are seeking schools to sponsor the FirstAmendment Affiliate Schools Program.

“Our goal is to refocus the nationalmindset in education on the need to educate for both freedom andresponsibility,” said Sam Chaltain, the coordinator for the “First AmendmentSchools: Educating for Freedom and Responsibility” initiative at the FirstAmendment Center, an independent affiliate of the Freedom Forum based inArlington, Va.

The FAS was founded in March 2001 with the intention ofintegrating First Amendment freedoms into daily school activities. Now, with theFAS affiliate program, K-12 public and private schools will have a moreimmediate means of adopting First Amendment education into their curriculums,Chaltain said.

Chaltain said the goal of the program is teach studentsthe “3-R”s, which include understanding and valuing individual rights, takingresponsibility to guard rights of others and debating withrespect.

“America is an experiment, one of the most successfulexperiments in liberty in human history, but there is no guarantee it willcontinue,” Chaltain said. “If we don’t teach [students] how to be free andresponsible citizens in our schools, then where will we teach them and when willany of [the students] acquire these important skills?”

Schools that applyfor the affiliate program must agree to the four FAS principles. First, theschool must create laboratories of Democratic Freedom. No one in the schoolshould be excluded. In addition, the school must make a commitment toinalienable rights and civic responsibility. Finally, the school must translatecivic education into community engagement.

In return for theircommitment, affiliate schools receive a subscription to the FAS weeklyelectronic newsletter and access to the FAS Network Web Board where they candiscuss their questions and comments with other schools. Schools are alsoinvited to conferences on civil liberties. In addition, the FAS offers grants toeligible schools to help support the school’s effort in First Amendmenteducation.

Schools can apply for the program online