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CBHS Teacher Wins First Amendment Challenge Award

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CBHS Teacher Wins First Amendment Challenge Award
Posted on 06/11/2015
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Casco Bay High School senior humanities teacher Mark Ford has won a First Amendment Challenge award for leading his students in a learning expedition that culminated in a Soapbox Celebration of Free Speech in Portland’s Monument Square in May.

The First Amendment Challenge, administered by the American Society of News Editors, aims to promote the teaching of First Amendment freedoms in secondary schools and honor teachers for their innovative efforts. Ford was the only Maine teacher among 40 teachers nationwide who received the award for their outstanding lesson plans and student projects. All the winners get a check for $1,000.

The First Amendment Challenge is an initiative of 1 for All, a national nonpartisan program designed to build understanding and support for the First Amendment freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition.

Ford explained how the learning expedition for CBHS seniors, called the “Power of Rhetoric,” worked:

“Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently said, ‘Fight for the things you care about, but do it in such a way that people will want to join you.’ To that end, we coupled our study of free speech and the First Amendment with the study of rhetoric. By looking at famous speeches and key Supreme Court cases concerning the First Amendment, we analyzed speeches and free speech acts for both their rhetorical effectiveness as well as their constitutionality. Students then wrote their own persuasive pieces to perform in Monument Square on First Friday in May.”

Working with Frank Kehoe in the PATHS carpentry program, students built soapboxes to stand on. A CBHS senior and PATHS carpentry student, Charlie Davis, was instrumental in making the project happen, pre-cutting all the wood necessary for construction, Ford said.

Students then decorated the soapboxes in ways that enhanced the student’s message or related to free speech. Ford said the soapboxes served as “physical platforms that provided students a hands-on way to engage with the project and build on the historical tradition of exercising our First Amendment rights, by stepping up and speaking out in the public marketplace of ideas.”

He said the students spoke on a variety of topics, including income inequality, environmental issues, healthy eating, music appreciation, gender roles and sexual identity.

To learn more about the First Amendment Challenge, click here.