Last fall I applied for and got a National Endowment for the Humanities package called Picturing America: twenty or so gorgeous prints of notable American works of art that illustrate one or more American characteristics. These are double-sided, heavily laminated, and are accompanied by a really good teacher’s guide.
I’ve been posting them on my bulletin board, with the heading I Have a Question… I post a question, and the first student who researches the correct answer gets a free book.
This week, it’s been Norman Rockwell’s “The Freedom of Speech”:
The first question is “What’s going on in this photo?” And a kid we’ll call Jimmy figured out that it was a debate. (Technically, it’s a town hall meeting, but let’s give the little Southern kid a break here.)
Then I asked, “Where does the freedom of speech come from?” And Bobby quickly found the 1st Amendment.
Finally, this afternoon I posted, “What exactly does freedom of speech mean?”
Jimmy was back in the media center, this time with his friend Huck. Huck and Jim had a pretty good idea what it meant, but they weren’t putting their finger on the crux of the issue. They found a Constitutional dictionary. They found a book called Constitution translated for kids. They even found the vertical file folder on the Constitution.
Every time, they reported what they found, but it was never the exact answer I was hoping they’d find. Finally, I asked if they had read the actual Amendment itself. They quickly pounced on a copy, and within 60 seconds Jimmy was at my desk, announcing that the freedom of speech meant that the government could not control what was acceptable speech and what was not.
And to make it even more wonderful, he selected as his book a Star Wars novel that Huck had been shooting for and gave it to Huck. I love my job.