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Free Speech is Off the Syllabus

We are at a cultural moment that seeks to silence individuals who speak outside a narrow range of ‘approved’ speech

-Deborah J. La Fetra

The principles of free speech are not being properly taught in our public institutions of learning. Young adults now more than ever prefer pseudo security and censorship of offensive materials than a society that benefits from the marketplace of ideas.

There is a dictated script in this country, and our children are taught to overreact when they come in contact with anyone conflicting with the approved narrative. They understand the concept of “approved” speech better than the underlying philosophy of free speech.

The Supreme Court, in the latest First Amendment victory, charged public schools with the duty of ensuring that future generations understand the principles of free speech in a decision regarding a teenage girl who cursed the school’s varsity cheer team on Snapchat, while at the mall, and was suspended from the cheerleading squad for an entire year as a result. Fun fact: President Joe Biden sided with the school’s decision to punish the teenager for her off campus, weekend banter.

While the Court’s decision certainly was a victory for the principles of free speech, I find it peculiar that the situation played out the way it did in the first place. The First Amendment literally gives us the right to question and disagree with our government. The First Amendment literally gives us the freedom to choose how we express said dissent. There is no age limit on the First Amendment. The teenager was frustrated with her school’s decision, so she cursed the decision in her free time. The school is a public entity and has the responsibility to educate our children.

What do these situation teach our children? Children today are taught that speech is synonymous with violence. We understand that oppression is a bubble that bursts into violence if unattended to for too long, as evidenced by the 2020 summer protests and riots and the January 6 riot at the Capitol. Yet, our children are taught to shout down and dismiss speech that doesn’t fit the script they’re fed. Its about time we start teaching the First Amendment in schools again.

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