Students to test First Amendment knowledge

Students will have an opportunity to flex their brains Friday in a competition of First Amendment knowledge during an event discussing the five freedoms it protects for citizens.

The Fresno State First Amendment Celebration will be in the Satellite Student Union from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.  Presented by the university’s mass communication and journalism and communication departments, The Fresno Bee and the Maddy Institute, the day includes a full schedule of First Amendment education.

The keynote event at 11 a.m. will be The Great First Amendment Quiz delivered by Dr. Ken Paulson.  He is president of the First Amendment Center and dean of the College of Mass Communication at Middle Tennessee State University. Paulson is also a former editor-in-chief of USA Today.

“It’s not the usual keynote,” Paulson said. “We’re going to have some fun with this and test students’ knowledge of free speech and censorship.”

Paulson said the audience will be divided into teams and compete for $100 gift cards for each winning team member.  The topics will include history and censorship in popular culture.

The other prize for students, however, might be a better understanding of the rights that, in Paulson’s opinion, make the U.S. a great country.

“The response has always been heartening,” he said. “The typical response is, ‘I learned things no one ever taught me in grade school.’  There are a number of moments when the audience learns the exact opposite of what they believed. It [First Amendment] gives greater freedom than anywhere else on the planet.”

Paulson’s extensive work advocating for the First Amendment includes founding 1 for All, a national First Amendment campaign, which launched on July 1, 2010.

He was also the host of the Emmy-honored PBS television program “Speaking Freely” that ran for more than five seasons.  He authored “Freedom Sings,” a multimedia stage show about the First Amendment that tours college campuses.

Paulson noted it is important for everyone to understand that the First Amendment and its protections do not “belong to the media.”

“It belongs to all of us,” Paulson said. “We do that by going to places of worship and posting things on the Internet. It has nothing to do with what job you are going to pursue and everything to do with being American.”