Swikle’s helpful free-expression tips

By David Bulla

Randy Swikle taught journalism in Illinois for nearly four decades. Along the way, he developed a whole catalog of activities to promote the First Amendment.
One of those is really simple and very cool.

And it sounds like a “Seinfeld” episode.

Before his retirement, Swikle would hand his students blank nametags.

“Write whatever you want on them,” he would say.

And then his students would wear the nametags around school for the day. On the surface, it’s not great shakes. Yet it’s quite effective.

Students express themselves freely, and then they share their thoughts with the word. Maybe they write down their name. Maybe the write down “Carpe Diem.” Maybe they write down “I Have a Dream.”

Whatever they write, they suddenly have a very public audience as they walk around school. Thus, it also teaches them to write for an audience.

And Swikle has many more ideas like this, such as having an assembly where faculty and students dress up like sumo wrestlers and have a choreographed bout over an issue like the comparative strengths of the U.S. Supreme Court decisions Tinker and Hazelwood.

All of this is a good stuff, and you can take it back to your neck of the woods.

If you want to contact Randy, here is his e-mail address.

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