Contrary to what some may believe, the protection of free speech by the First Amendment is not absolute. Government attempts to punish or restrict certain kinds of speech all the time, and sometimes when those restrictions are challenged in court, the court approves of the restrictions. After taking this course, you'll understand why this happens in a country that supposedly guarantees free speech.

We'll start the course by reading some of the philosophers that first spoke about the benefits of free speech, and then we'll look at some of the contemporary criticisms of the concept. Next, we'll study most of the exceptions to free speech in the United States, including speech that creates a clear and present danger of lawless action, obscene speech, and speech that violates another person's privacy. Throughout the course you'll practice your analytical abilities and critical thinking skills by applying what you've learned about free speech to new situations. For example, based on what you learn about restricting speech on a radio station, how would the government react to the same speech on the internet?

Class instruction includes lecture, guest speakers, pertinent videotapes, and discussion. During the class, you'll write several in-class "pop" essays plus two research papers on a free-speech topic of interest to you. You'll also do at least one oral exercise such as a debate or a moot court argument. The course concludes with a comprehensive final examination.

After taking this course, you'll understand the boundaries of free speech in the United States. More importantly, you'll be able to critically assess government attempts to restrict free speech in the future.