Students reflect on the First Amendment during Free Speech Week

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“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.”

With that addition to the U.S. Constitution, the First Amendment was born. With these words, the concept of free speech was ratified into law as part of the Bill of Rights. Free Speech Week, held this year during the week of October 19-25, is held annually to recognize the importance of free speech to our democracy.

In honor of Free Speech Week, we asked members of the ASNE Youth Journalism Initiative Student Advisory Board to discuss why the First Amendment is important to them:

Cory Johnson, Wauseon High School, Wauseon, Ohio:
“The foundation on which we built our very democracy in which we still enjoy is built on the freedom of speech. The many rights and privileges we enjoy today can be directly contributed to free speech. If Americans did not have the ability to speak freely, nothing more would be accomplished. Laws, bills, resolutions, decisions, and motions are all an effect of this ability. Free speech propels any and all aspects of a productive society. A world without this freedom is simply unfathomable.”

Josie Abugov, Harvard-Westlake School, Studio City, California:
“Freedom of the press for student journalists is a perfect reason to celebrate Free Speech Week, as it teaches the future generation of leaders the importance of speaking up and exploring the boundless possibilities that journalism has to offer.”

Angela Wang, Homestead High School, Cupertino, California:
“Free speech is fundamental to democracy and to the field of journalism. Many times in the past and present, people have attempted to restrict the press from exercising their rights of free speech, afraid of offending others or causing a controversy. These people miss the point – journalism is not meant to make people comfortable, but to report the news and keep the public informed. Although journalists should remain ethical and exercise discretion whenever discussing certain topics, that should not prevent them from exercising their fundamental rights.”

Jennifer Little, Patterson Mill High School, Bel Air, Maryland:
“The right to free speech can most actively be exercised by taking a stance. Too often in American society people become indecisive. We are blessed to have the ability to read and publish virtually anything compared to other societies, but yet people remain ignorant and do not want or ‘have the time’ to form an educated opinion. With this set of beliefs would come the freedom to express and simply have an opinion.”

 

Check out Free Speech Week’s website for some celebration ideas and lesson plans. Follow the hashtag #FreeSpeechWeek on Twitter to see how people around the country are celebrating all week.

For more information on the Student Advisory Board or if you would like to join, check out SchoolJournalism.org. SchoolJournalism.org is a one-stop shop for lesson plans dealing with the First Amendment, censorship and student press rights. Additional lesson plans and resources on the First Amendment are available at 1forall.us.

 

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