Tuesday, February 01, 2005


First Amendment seen as harmful by a significant portion of high school students

This article on CNN reports on the results of a study of high school students' perception of the protections granted by the First Amendment. While the majority of the article is mewling from myriad corners speculating on the cause of this state of affairs and what can be done to rectify it, the real meat of the article can be had from these two excerpted paragraphs:

When told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes "too far" in the rights it guarantees. Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories.

Three in four students said flag burning is illegal. It's not. About half the students said the government can restrict any indecent material on the Internet. It can't.

Why do you think it is that a large portion of high school students don't value the protection of expression? I'd be thankful to hear any ideas you have.

First, it's hard to know what the students had in mind regarding stories that should be censored. It could be the whole yelling-"fire"-in-a-crowded-theatre-thing.

Second, I think a lot of high school students are pretty idealistic. That seems to change when they get to college and the pendulum swings the other way.

Lastly, I think they just take it for granted. They don't really understand that in some countries you really do get thrown in jail indefinitely for criticizing the government.
Expect more of this with the "no child left behind" outcome education model where teachers must teach to tests, and everything becomes about linear thinking and memorizing facts and figures
I have to reply to Clint's comment on NCLB. I have been doing lots of studying and thinking about the whole issue of teaching to the test and my thoughts are that it is not necessary. It is a cirle... the things on the test are what the students need to know and the things you teach will naturally be on the test. Granted I do not have any teaching expereince yet but I think that the test and the curriculum will go hand in hand if educators are teaching what needs to be taught.
Most of them don't have anything worth expressing, anyway. Who wants to hear from a bunch of high schoolers? Not me. Apathy runs both ways on this one.

Oh, but I suppose that's not your point.

More seriously, there is something to the idea that they have never had to stand up for anything in their lives, most likely. So they don't appreciate.

My thought: If you were to readdress the question in terms of "minority rights" (an essentially identical notion), students would be much more likely to support it, if only becuase "minority" has a different connotation to students.
Tim's facetiousness cracks me up because he gets paid to listen to veritable high schoolers express that which is not worth expressing. I can feel the bitterness oozing between the lines.
It seems that the two themes in the possible explanations posted above are that
- Students are taught facts, not how to think
- Because students' thinking is not challenged in school, they are unaccustomed to hearing differing viewpoints; thus, they seen no value in such contradictory expression

While these explanations seem reasonable to me, I'd like to know why high school students, who stereotypically feel they are repressed by their parents or "The Man," would have the notion that others should be treated in a way which they dislike. Is it simply human nature to want to inflict on others that which you have experienced and disliked yourself? If high schoolers truly feel as repressed as they are stereotypically thought to, wouldn't they have a libertarian bent, desiring that the government remain hands-off unless intervention is clearly needed?

I'd love to know how the study's questions were worded; unfortunately, I've been unable to find the original study. If anyone could score a link to the real thing, I'd be stoked and toss you a fistful of whuffie.
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