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Teaching Controversy: Turning Third-Rail Topics into Productive Debates

Learn how NewseumED turns controversial subjects into the fodder for engaging student experiences. Gain practical tools and techniques for overcoming the obstacles to teaching hot-button issues.

Courtesy SF Weekly via Facebook

In today’s world, there seems to be an endless list of issues that have a vital impact on our lives, but also the potential to derail a class session due to inappropriate content or divisive ideas. As First Amendment educators, the NewseumED team has spent years developing tools and techniques for turning this topics countless flashpoints and controversies – from racism and obscenity to threats of violence – into teachable moments. In this session, participants will learn the preparation and discussion methods that have allowed NewseumED to build a successful practice of teaching controversy. They’ll leave with a deeper understanding of resources available to them and the tools they need to confidently develop their own student materials and experiences.
"I really liked the techniques for building case studies and the suggestions for how to scaffold them for students of different abilities/backgrounds." Kate Kennedy, teacher, Massachusetts

Booking Information

The workshop includes an interactive lesson with a Newseum educator, teaching strategies and resources. This class requires a minimum of 12 educators and a maximum of 36 in the Learning Center classroom.

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How to register and enroll

For more details on options, customizations and pricing, or to book a workshop, please call the Education reservation line at 202/292-6650 or write to Workshops must be requested at least one week in advance. We recommend arriving at the Newseum no later than 15 minutes before your scheduled workshop time.

Cancellation policy:

If you need to reschedule or cancel your workshop, please contact the Education Department at 202/292-6650 OR write to before the date of your scheduled visit. All ticket sales are final. There are no refunds for no shows or unused tickets.

Accessibility Questions?

Assistance (e.g. ASL interpretation, assistive listening, description) for programs/tours can be arranged with at least seven business days’ notice. Please contact AccessUs at or by calling 202/292-6453.

  • Topics:
    Case Study
    Current Events
    News & Media
  • Theme:
    Civics and Citizenship
  • Level:
  • Cost:
    Call for pricing.
  • Duration:
    90 minutes
  • Days Offered:
    Monday through Friday
  • Time Offered:
    between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
  • Capacity:
    max 36 participants in the Learning Center
  • Minimum Enrollment:
    12 participants
  • Grade:
    Professional Development
  • Format:
    At the Newseum

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    Students learn about restrictions to freedom of speech in public life, then debate court cases that determined when and why those limits apply.

    This class is for:

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  • Newseum Learning Center, Documentary Theater and/or Virtually

    You Can't Say That in School?!

    Students debate court cases to learn how far First Amendment protections extend in public school, and why limits may be necessary.

    This class is for:

    • Students


Incorporate NewseumED resources in your classroom or enrich your research project with rare, hi-res primary sources.


Dive into specially curated collections of primary sources and lessons on civil rights, women's suffrage and more.


Respond to breaking news and find new ways to teach standard topics with tips from NewseumED staff.

  • The primary and secondary resources are totally awesome!”

    Hassan Mims Social Studies, Grades 9-12
  • The Newseum is a unique experience. It connects real world events to the heart of each individual.”

    Jane Peterson English, Grade 8
  • All the content from NewseumED is high quality and fully accessible for my students. That makes it invaluable!”

    Shay Taylor Education Technology Specialist, Grades 9-12 and college