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Speak Truth

Student-led Civil Discourse

Speak Truth is honest and respectful discussion about contemporary social issues — by students, for students.

Through student-facilitated conversations, participants learn to productively and respectfully discuss current, controversial topics. The thought-provoking conversations at Speak Truth teach students to defend their stances on a myriad of issues and help them develop and recognize the power of their voices. As a national model for civic discourse and dialogue among young people, Speak Truth seminars have the power to shape a generation of socially conscious future leaders and citizens who will be responsible for building a better future for us all.

Read more stories about Speak Truth and other programs from Inspired Teaching


Transformative Education Opportunity

Prepares students to thrive

in a university classroom, where they will engage in similar high-level discourse

Creates space for dialogue

where students can safely share their voices and experiences

Exposes students to a variety of media

through speeches, essays, movies, news articles

Provides community service hours

 to students who facilitate and participate in discussions

Models Inspired Teaching in action

emphasizing student-directed classrooms

Calling all High School students! Join us for the 2023 Speak Truth Spring Seminar.

DC High School students are invited to join a live ZOOM discussion about how AI is changing learning and what the school of the future should be. Student insights will be shared with teachers nationwide. In addition, participants will learn about how Speak Truth sessions can be held at their schools next year. Participation is FREE and students earn a certificate for 2 hours of community service for each session attended.

Teachers: Bring Speak Truth to your school

Young people care about issues affecting them and the world around them. Their concerns don’t always line up with the curriculum, and teachers don’t always have the time, tools, or resources to explore their students’ interests. Yet we know elevating youth voices is critically important not only for students’ well-being, but for their development as problem-solvers and future leaders. The Speak Truth model presented in this Guide offers a way to bring meaningful student-led conversations into the classroom. Whether you host a Speak Truth session once a quarter, once a week, or every day, you will be creating a valuable space for learning where young voices and curiosity can grow.

Standards Addressed by the Speak Truth Program

Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language

Conventions of Standard English:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

Knowledge of Language:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.6 Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.


Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing

Text Types and Purposes:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

Production and Distribution of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening

Comprehension and Collaboration:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.3 Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.5 Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading

Key Ideas and Details:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.3 Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

Craft and Structure:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.6 Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.9 Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10 Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards

Dimension 1: Developing Questions and Planning Inquiries Dimension 2: Applying Disciplinary Tools and Concepts Dimension 3: Evaluating Sources and Using Evidence Dimension 4: Communicating Conclusions and Taking Informed Action
Developing Questions and Planning Inquiries Civics Gathering and Evaluating Sources Communicating and Critiquing Conclusions
Geography Developing Claims and Using Evidence Taking Informed Action

Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning Competencies

Self-Awareness: The abilities to understand one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior across contexts. This includes capacities to recognize one’s strengths and limitations with a well-grounded sense of confidence and purpose.

Self-management: The abilities to manage one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations and to achieve goals and aspirations. This includes the capacities to delay gratification, manage stress, and feel motivation and agency to accomplish personal and collective goals.

Social awareness: The abilities to understand the perspectives of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and contexts. This includes the capacities to feel compassion for others, understand broader historical and social norms for behavior in different settings, and recognize family, school, and community resources and supports.

Responsible decision-making: The abilities to make caring and constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions across diverse situations. This includes the capacities to consider ethical standards and safety concerns, and to evaluate the benefits and consequences of various actions for personal, social, and collective well-being.

Relationship skills: The abilities to establish and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse individuals and groups. This includes the capacities to communicate clearly, listen actively, cooperate, work collaboratively to problem solve and negotiate conflict constructively, navigate settings with differing social and cultural demands and opportunities, provide leadership, and seek or offer help when needed.

Past Speak Truth Seminars

May 31, 2022 at EL Haynes High School

Dozens of students participated in this in-person event, which focused on four topics: Don’t Touch My Hair; Immigration & Deportation; Gotta Catch Em’ All; and Violence in School. The sessions were held in partnership with the school’s Intro to Black Law and LULAC after-school clubs. During the Violence in School discussion, student-facilitators led with questions such as: What does solidarity look like to you? Why do we think there is racial tension in school? How do we relate to each other as students of color?

May 17, 2022 Virtual Seminar

The Pros and Cons of the High School Community Service Requirement

October 3, 2021 Virtual Seminar

Society’s Deleterious Impact on Some African Americans’ Intracultural Behavior

September 23, 2021 Virtual Seminar

Strengthening the Speak Truth Program

September 2, 2021 Virtual Seminar

The Purpose of Higher Education
How to Find Your Path After School

June 17, 2021 Virtual Seminar

America’s Modern-Day Slavery: The For-Profit Prison System

June 3, 2021 Virtual Seminar

No Means No: A Conversation Defining Consent in the Modern World
Consent And Communication
Ruling On Tight Jeans and Rape Sets Off Anger In Italy

Learning Disabilities in the Classroom
Bella Thorne Dyslexia Story

Glee Ryder finds out he has dyslexia

May 20, 2021 Virtual Seminar
May 6, 2021 Virtual Seminar

Necessary Sacrifices in partnership with Ford’s Theatre
Necessary Sacrifices – A Radio Play

April 15, 2021 Virtual Seminar

Our Future with Climate Change
Kyoto Protocol Fast Facts
Paris Agreement vs Kyoto Protocol [Comparison Chart]

WTF: Why The (pro-)Fanity? A Discussion on Everyday Profanity
Swearing: A Long And #%@&$ History

March 18, 2021 Virtual Seminar

Science versus Religious Belief

March 4, 2021 Virtual Seminar

The Normalization of Diet Culture
What is Diet Culture and Why Should We Challenge it?

Bridging the Abortion Divide: A Conversation on Reproductive Rights
The Redirect: Why facts matter on both sides of abortion debate

February 18, 2021 Virtual Seminar
February 4, 2021 Virtual Seminar

Human Trafficking
What is Human Trafficking


January 21, 2021 Virtual Seminar
Taking Care of Your Mental Health
January 7, 2021 Virtual Seminar

Modern protest in a nutshell

December 17, 2020 Virtual Seminar

A Christmas Carol and Wealth Inequality – in partnership with Ford’s Theatre
A Christmas Carol: A Radio Play

December 10, 2020 Virtual Seminar

Gentrification and the Lower and Middle Class
The Effects of Gentrification on Lower- and Middle-Class Minorities’

November 19, 2020 Virtual Seminar
November 5, 2020 Virtual Seminar
October 15, 2020 Virtual Seminar
October 1, 2020 Virtual Seminar
The Impact of Trauma on Mental Health
First Responders and Mental Health
September 17, 2020 Virtual Seminar

What is Consent?

September 3, 2020 Virtual Seminar

Police in Schools and the School-to-Prison Pipeline
Police Training and Funding
Police Regulation, Legislation and Balances

June 18, 2020 Virtual Seminar

Are local and federal governments going about police reform effectively??
Justice in Policing Act
Justice in America Episode 21: Police Accountability

June 4, 2020 Virtual Seminar
May 21, 2020 Virtual Seminar

Should A Constitutional Convention Be Held to Amend the Constitution?
How to Amend the Constitution

May 7, 2020 Virtual Seminar

Should Billionaires Exist? A Discussion About Extreme Wealth Inequality.
Is Taxing The Ultra-Wealthy ‘Punishing Success?

April 16, 2020 Virtual Seminar

How should school systems, colleges, and universities value this academic year?
The School Year Is Far From Lost

April 2, 2020 Virtual Seminar
Is The Novel Coronavirus Exacerbating Inequalities?
Inequality Is Immune to the Coronavirus
March 19, 2020 Virtual Seminar
February 13, 2020 Seminar at EL Haynes Public Charter School
January 16, 2020 Seminar at Anacostia High School
December 19, 2019 Seminar at Georgetown Day School
November 21, 2019 Seminar at Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter School
October 17, 2019 Seminar at National Cathedral School
Who Owns What?: The Idea of Cultural Property
Are Dreadlocks Cultural Appropriation?

21st Century Beauty Standards: Is It Preference or Discrimination?
Is It Racist to Have A Racial Dating Preference?

Dress Code Discrimination: Are Dress Codes Racially Discriminatory?
‘It’s About Power’: D.C. Students Seek To Remove Bias In School Dress Codes
Black Girls Can’t Dress Their Way Out Of Racist or Sexist Policies

Globalization & Culture: Do They Conflict or Coincide?
Protesting Climate Change, Young People Take to Streets in a Global Strike

September 26, 2019 Seminar at Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter School
The Impact of School Shootings on Mental Health
The Psychological Aftermath of Surviving School Shootings

The N-Word in the Classroom
Too Taboo for Class?
Good Teachers Use the N-Word

June 12, 2019 Seminar at George Washington University (National History Day Speak Truth on the Mall)
May 16, 2019 Seminar at Georgetown Day School
March 27, 2019 Virtual Seminar
February 28, 2019 Seminar at Wilson High School

Mandatory Black History and Ethnic Studies in Schools
     • Black History Month in Schools—Retire or Reboot?

 Who Helps Schools More: Counselors or Security
     • Counselors Versus Cops
     • More social workers, not officers, in schools

Strike One and You’re Out!  End Zero Tolerance Policies
     • ‘Zero tolerance’ policies disproportionately punish black girls, professor says
     • How Zero-Tolerance Policies Hurt Kids
     • Betsy DeVos Revokes Obama Discipline Guidance Designed to Protect Students of Color

Hire More Black Teachers
     • Hire More Black Teachers Now!
     • Study: Having Just One Black Teacher Can Up Black Students’ Chances of Going to College

How Do We Use Social Media Healthily?

    • Excerpt from Jean Twenge’s iGen

Living in Color: Colorism in Professional Environments
     • Schools’ Discipline for Girls Differs by Race and Hue
     • Darker-skinned Black Job Applicants Hit More Obstacles

Do Standardized Tests Impact the Demographics of DC Schools?
D.C. had a plan to diversify one of its most selective high schools

January 30th, 2019 Virtual Seminar
December 20, 2018 Virtual Seminar
November 24, 2018 Virtual Seminar

September 20, 2018 at Cesar Chavez Public School (Capitol Hill Campus)


October 18, 2018 at Georgetown Day School


 See discussion topics and readings from last year here.

The classroom should be about more than just teaching and listening. It should be about creating a space for curiosity and action.

— Adult Visitor, Speak Truth