HistoryRemix: Devaluing or Disbelieving Freedom…

In 2005, Paul Levinson presented a key note titled “The Flouting of the First Amendment” at Fordham University’s Media Ecology Association Convention. Levinson went on to publish his thoughts in Explorations in Media Ecology (2006, vol 5, no 3, pp. 199-210). You can watch the keynote address or read the transcript of Paul Levinson.

Levinson’s presentation of the history of our freedom of speech is enlightening, for sure. It is his analysis, in the end, that engages me. Levinson says:

So in the end … we stand at another crucial juncture regarding the history of the United States but also the history of the human species and freedom of expression and freedom of thought and freedom of the press, and it’s gonna be a very tough battle. At least fifty percent of Americans don’t seem to want that freedom. A survey of high school students last year showed a majority of them didn’t think the First Amendment was necessary and didn’t see why newspapers should be granted that kind of freedom.

Shocking? Of course. We find ourselves, as adults working with young adults, in a upside-down (almost surreal) paradigm. In past decades, as educators of minors, we might have found ourselves pulling back on the reigns of student expression. It seems now we may need to prod from behind…”speak up,” “use your voice,” “stand up for your rights.”

Less than a month ago, I posted, here, my concerns about student reluctance to use their voices. I have to wonder, when I consider what I observed that day, if high school students truly do not value their freedom of speech, or if, instead, it is that they don’t understand it…or perhaps worse, they don’t believe it truly exists.


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