If many of the recently surveyed high-school students had their way, this editorial would have to be approved by the government before it was published. That is what a study concerning the First Amendment has found: A large number of high-school students believe that free speech should be limited and censorship is permissible. This either suggests high-school students are misinformed about one of their most basic civil rights or indeed do not care about it. Both are deeply troubling.
The study, conducted by the University of Connecticut, questioned more than 100,000 students, nearly 8,000 teachers and more than 500 administrators at 544 public and private high schools, according to Associated Press.
The study also found that 97 percent of teachers and 99 percent of school principals said extreme views should be allowed expression, as per the First Amendment, while only 83 percent of students agreed. This may still seem a high percentage until one considers that 27 percent must feel the First Amendment goes too far.
One third of students were also convinced that the government is able to censor the Internet and that flag burning is illegal. Limiting either would be illegal according to the Bill of Rights.
Such clear misinformation is a dangerous trend indeed. When President George W. Bush quipped, “There ought to be limits to freedom,” there was much outrage. Now it seems such limits are becoming more acceptable, at least to our nation’s youth.
They are not.
No matter what high-school students appear to be thinking, the First Amendment is still one of the most important foundations of the American way of life. If this foundation erodes, the other rights and laws our legal system encompasses also lose their footing.
Maybe the students ought to be encouraged to visit a library to read up on the rights they have — before their peers make it illegal.