Monday, March 28, 2005

Teens and the First Amendment

Last Wednesday's Dear Abby column discussed the reader response to a student who had been punished for "respectfully disagreeing" with a teacher. Abby admitted she was wrong to have supported the teacher against the student's right to free speech. #1 son does a lot of what he calls "respectful disagreeing" with his teachers. Being 13-14, and having argued with him in the past, I wonder just how "respectful" he really is. But that's beside the point. He has a right to his opinions as long as they are appropriately expressed.

One of Abby's readers pointed out a story in USA Today, an op-ed about an op-ed from The Republican discussing a study about teens' understanding of the First Amendment, or lack thereof. The culture of "school" in this country is one of indoctrination--it rewards docility and agreement, not the free exchange of ideas. When I was in high school, the principal threatened to shut down our school paper rather than let a political cartoon critical of the new superintendent be published. This was 15 years after the Supreme Court ruled students' right to free speech did not stop at the schoolhouse door. (But before Hazelwood gave school principals the right to "edit" school newspapers.)

My point is, we as parents need to teach our gifted children their rights as well as their responsibilities in the classroom.

No comments: