People are always free to speak their mind.
The bigger question is what level of protection do we give to people once they have spoken.
For example - If I say "The Jewish Holocaust never happened", I have the freedom to speak (or write in this case). Those who hear (or read) are now free to form an opinion of my character and intellect! The problem comes when people wish to punish me for my (ill advised) words.
Many people confuse "freedom of speech" with "freedom from consequence for our words"
Most Americans think of "first amendment rights" when they talk of free speech.
The First Amendment (US Constitution) prohibits the making of any law
1. Establishing a of religion,
2. Impeding the free exercise of religion,
3. Abridging the freedom of speech,
4. Infringing on the freedom of the press,
5. Interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or
6. Prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.
Here, States can not establish laws limiting what you can say (personally).
There are laws, however, that require some level of truth in advertising (commercial speech).
There are also laws about slander and liable that limit "free speech"
Freedom of speech does not exist in reality, not in the way people use the phrase. At the beginning of this year, an Australian politician(?) spoke about how Australia's losing our culture identity because the Australian government is allowing foreigners to do things that are illegal for Australians to do. He stated that people should not forget about where they come from but abide by the country's laws they are living in.
The response to his statement accused him of being racist and oppressive to the point where he stepped down from his position and took back his words.
If you are go against the social norm of thinking, you are either cast-aside as a idiot or forced to take back those statements. That is not freedom of speech, not the way people use the phrase.
Side note: I'm afraid I can't find a link for my case at the moment but it was on Sunrise at the beginning of the year. When I do find the link, I will post it.
The hard reality is without the protection of freedom of speech elites will violently manipulate people into supporting their goals and get away with it to the extent that this is predominantly to the disbenefit of the majority. Granted elites already use sneaky ways of influencing the public but at least if you are intelligent you don't get as fooled because you know how to critically think about what you are reading and compare and contrast viewpoints. Without freedom of speech these intellectuals aren't free to express themselves and bring truth to power.
Of course at the same time there's a lot of idiots speaking and a lot of pseudointellectuals who just think they have the right ideas because they persuaded themselves with mental gymnastics. But in order to protect the free speech of people who are right we must protect the free speech of people who are wrong.
BUT in civics classrooms it should be stressed freedom of speech is protection from criminal prosecution and legal liability it's not protection from other people's reactions towards you unless those reactions infringe on your legal rights.