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eventual loss of the First Amendment

the eventual loss of civil liberties
Last week a report came out on the drop in concern for the protection of the First Amendment amoung high school students. What concerned those who understand the First Amendment as a guardian of all other civil liberties is the willingness to push aside freedom of speech for the illusion of safety.

My personal suggestion is maybe we need a Triage Unit of educators who could go around and teach (for free) basic civil rights. These Triage Units would go into high schools or even into community squares or public places (like Pioneer Square). I think places and populations where this would be most effective are those who are generally targeted by "code enforcement".

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Survey Finds Students Ignorant Of Basic First Amendment Rights
By Jimmy Moore
Talon News
February 1, 2005

WASHINGTON (Talon News) -- In a new study of high school students ironically released the day after the historic democratic elections in Iraq, basic freedoms such as the freedom of speech and of the press found in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution were found to be unimportant to them.

Commissioned by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and conducted last Spring by the University of Connecticut, the survey of 112,003 high school students, 327 principals, and 7,889 teachers from 544 public and private high schools found an ignorance concerning fundamental constitutional rights in the United States by the leaders of the next generation.

It is said to be the largest such study of its kind to be conducted and cost $1 million to conduct.

According to the survey, more than one-third of respondents believe newspapers need "government approval" of their stories before they can be published with only about half stating they believe in unfettered freedom of the press. Another 13 percent said they did not care.

When asked if they believe the press has "too much freedom," again one-third said it does and 37 percent said it has just the right amount. One out of ten respondents said it has too little.

Additionally, three out of four respondents said they believe flag burning is against the law. However, a 1989 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court found it to be protected free speech under the First Amendment.

Hodding Carter III, who serves as the president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, reacted to the survey results by declaring them as not only "disturbing" but also "dangerous."

"Ignorance about the basics of this free society is a danger to our nation's future," Carter exclaimed in a synopsis of the survey.

Analysis in the report by Journalism Education Association Executive Director Linda Puntney shows that high school students are lacking in their education about the U.S. Constitution.

"Schools don't do enough to teach the First Amendment," Puntney lamented in the report. "Students often don't know the rights it protects. This all comes at a time when there is decreasing passion for much of anything. And, you have to be passionate about the First Amendment."

These survey results have renewed debate by state and federal lawmakers over the importance of civics studies in the schools.

The survey found that the absence of basic government tenets in our schools has led to a lack of understanding of the democracy our forefathers fought and died to defend.

But not everyone is stunned by the study's findings.

Jack Dvorak, who serves as the director of the High School Journalism Institute at Indiana University in Bloomington, said many established journalists are "often unaware of a lot of the freedoms that might be associated with the First Amendment."

"Kids aren't learning enough about the First Amendment in history, civics or English classes," Dvorak remarked in a statement.

He continued, "It also tracks closely with recent findings of adults' attitudes. It's part of our Constitution, so this should be part of a formal education."

Other interesting findings in the survey include three-fourths of respondents admit they take their First Amendment rights for granted and half of respondents think the government has the ability to censor Internet content.

More information on the 90-page "The Future of the First Amendment" survey can be found at The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation's High School Initiative web site.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Copyright 2005 Talon News -- All rights reserved.



High school students display apathetic attitude towards First Amendment rights

As you read over these words and the words in other newspaper articles, you're taking part in something that many are taking for granted.

Freedom of the press is one of the many freedoms granted by the First Amendment, which a recent study shows many students care very little about. The $1 million study sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and conducted by the University of Connecticut surveyed more than 100,000 students as well as nearly 8,000 teachers and more than 500 administrators at 544 public and private high schools. The study, which is said to be one of the largest of its kind, found that students were indifferent to the freedoms granted to them in the First Amendment.

The First Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights that was added to the United States' constitution, gives citizens the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, the freedom of the press, the freedom to assemble and the freedom to petition. As most students should learn in their history classes, the new settlers were trying to escape tyranny as well as the government's control of information. Thus in our democracy, the way to truly escape such a life is to grant its citizens such freedoms.

Centuries later, studies are showing that students not only don't care about the First Amendment, but they barely know what it is. The study showed that three in four students said they took it for granted or didn't know how they felt about it. Three in four students surveyed thought that flag burning is illegal, which it isn't, according to the Bill of Rights. Eighty-three percent of students also said people should be allowed to express unpopular views, which is more restrictive than the 97 percent of teachers and 99 percent of school principals who said the same.

The lack of awareness about the value of the First Amendment can stem from many different places. Students are perhaps not being sufficiently taught about the history and rights that the First Amendment grants. Also, many media programs are being cut in high schools throughout the nation, preventing students from participating in such freedoms firsthand.

Many students on campus could not believe how oblivious students are regarding their own rights.

"Our generation is grossly ignorant regarding our civil rights, because we have never had to fight for them," said Hadley Moore, a sophomore in the College of Liberal Arts and president of the Purdue chapter of College Democrats. "So many of us prefer to waste our time with video games or television than pick up a book and read about how the freedoms we enjoy today were obtained."

Many had similar opinions.

"I think that high school students become complacent in our society today because we don't have the struggles that you did in the '60s and '70s," said Nathan Arnold, a junior in the School of Civil Engineering and president of the University Conservative Action Network.

Others didn't think the lack of political involvement among high school students was anything to get worried about.

"I think some of it is over-hyped and people worry about it too much," said Adam Rusch, a senior in the College of Liberal Arts and president of the Purdue chapter of College Republicans. "In high school, you don't care about politics because you can't vote and they don't care about something they can't affect."

While we may not know for years to come what the outcome of indifferent and uninformed citizens has on the nation, there may be a few ways to remedy it, short of any major oppressive event.

Jonathan Elkins, a senior in the College of Liberal Arts and president of the Purdue chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said improved education is one way that students can better understand the history of their country as well as the rights they possess.

"I believe that allowing students to participate in activities that involve the First Amendment, and our Constitution as a whole, is necessary to help these young people to develop into responsible citizens of society," he said.

It's necessary to utilize the freedoms that generations worked so hard to attain. Although we haven't faced some of the tribulations that our parents' and grandparents' generations have seen, we should continue to be grateful for the rights we have and never take them for granted.

Heather Poston is a senior in the College of Liberal Arts. She can be reached at  opinions@purdueexponent.org.



Young Attitudes on First Amendment Dip
by Jennifer Ludden

(for audio go to  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php...)

All Things Considered, February 6, 2005 Only about half of America's high school students think newspapers should be allowed to publish freely, without government approval of their stories. Host Jennifer Ludden talks with Hodding Carter III, the president and CEO of the Knight Foundation, about the findings of the findings of a recent study, "The Future of the First Amendment."


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