New Bill of Rights Institute Curriculum Focuses on Media Literacy

Arlington, VA – The Bill of Rights Institute has published Media and American Democracy, a new curriculum designed to help high school students understand freedom of the press and the essential role and responsibility of the media in a free society.

Thanks to the Internet and 24-hour cable news outlets, news and commentary are delivered to the public in real time from thousands of sources, making the protections of the First Amendment more complicated. Media and American Democracy will strengthen understanding of First Amendment rights and develop the analytical skills young people need to become media-savvy. The teaching guide’s 15 lessons will examine the following:

  • Historical foundations of the First Amendment
  • Limits to the First Amendment in the interest of national security
  • How media images influence our understanding of current events
  • The role of bloggers in mainstream media
  • Student journalists’ rights

The curriculum also includes resources such as a list of landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases, a media milestones timeline, and glossaries of journalism terms, rhetorical devices, and propaganda expressions.

Based on lessons developed by teachers participating in the “Media and American Democracy” Summer Institute conducted by Harvard University’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, Media and American Democracy is designed to meet state and national standards and can be used to supplement any civics, social studies, government, journalism, or English curriculum.

The media literacy curriculum is made possible through a $100,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The Institute’s curriculum builds on Knight’s

$12 million High School Initiative to engage students in journalism and in understanding their First Amendment protections. Knight recently unveiled the results of a national research project, the largest of its kind, gauging high school students’ attitudes toward the First Amendment. The survey found that most of America’s high school students either do not know how they feel about the First Amendment or admit they take it for granted. 

The Bill of Rights Institute is an educational nonprofit organization founded in 1999. Its mission is to educate high school students and teachers about our country’s Founding principles through classroom materials and programs that teach the words and ideas of the Founders; the liberties and freedoms guaranteed in our Founding documents; and how America’s Founding principles affect and shape a free society. For more information on the media literacy curriculum, visit us on the web at

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of 26 U.S. communities.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit