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In advance of 15th anniversary commemorations of 9/11, NewseumED just launched its latest online theme-focused resource, Freedom in the Balance.  The free content for teachers and students uses  the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, to examine the fragile balance throughout history between protecting our First Amendment freedoms – religion, speech, press, assembly and petition – and protecting public safety.

"Other organizations have covered the attacks of 9/11 extensively, from providing timelines of the day to histories of the causes and U.S.-Middle East relations," says NewseumED curriculum manager Anna Kassinger. "We provide a new type of resource that focuses not on the day itself but a larger issue that the attacks brought to the fore of public life: How do we balance the often competing interests of exercising our First Amendment rights and protecting national security? And as important: How has our country answered this question in history and wrestle with it today?"

Freedom in the Balance uses an engaging case study approach to connect historical and contemporary debates on religious belief, diversity, expression and security. For example, the controversial New York Police Department program to monitor Muslims and mosques after 9/11 is paired with the 1837 attempt by Protestant New Yorkers to ban Roman Catholic residents from voting and delay citizenship for Catholic immigrants. In both cases, the religious groups were perceived as a threat to America and its peoples.

The 22 case studies include standards-aligned lesson plans, with debate questions, links to dozens of related photographs and historic artifacts, and extension activities for students. Freedom in the Balance is designed for middle school students and older. (To access some of these resources, you must be signed into NewseumED; registration is free.)


Among the interactive features is a Freedom Quiz that uses real-life examples in the news to force students to make a tough choice between protecting individual freedoms or bolstering security. For example, do they think the government should be able to limit people's freedom of speech always, sometimes or never in the name of safety? At the end of the quiz, discover their freedom type: Freedom Champion, Freedom Defender, Freedom Balancer, Security Champion, Security Defender, or Security Balancer. Users can see how their responses compare with other quiz takers and what historical figure they'd click or clash with.

To introduce educators to the new content, the Newseum will host a Spring Teacher Open House on Saturday, April 9, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with classes, tours and workshops related to Freedom in the Balance.  Admission is free for educators, and those who pre-register will receive a USB drive filled with teaching resources.

Freedom in the Balance is made possible with generous support by the For Action Initiative and the Families of September 11.

Freedom in the Balance is the third EDCollection on the revamped NewseumED website.  The other two — “Making a Change” and “Women, Their Rights and Nothing Less” — explore how civil rights advocates and suffragists used the powers guaranteed by the First Amendment to make their voices heard and enact change. Both “Making a Change” and “Women, Their Rights and Nothing Less” are endorsed by the National Council for the Social Studies.

Each EDCollection brings together rare archival materials, primary sources, original content and lesson plans to provide an immersive learning experience. A fourth EDCollection will launch in August on Election 2016.      

EDClasses & Training

  • Religious Liberty for Students

    Students will be introduced to the principles that flow from the religious liberty clauses of the First Amendment.

  • Religious Literacy for Students

    Students will be introduced to academically rigorous and constitutionally appropriate models for analyzing the role of religion in private and public life.

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