I don't know what to make of this:
[W]hen told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes “too far” in the rights it guarantees. Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories.
The students are even more restrictive in their views than their elders, the study says.
When asked whether people should be allowed to express unpopular views, 97 percent of teachers and 99 percent of school principals said yes. Only 83 percent of students did.
Here's what I find potentially disturbing. When I was in high school (not all that long ago), it seemed like everyone that I knew was competing to be a non-conformist of some kind. People had different ways of rebelling against whatever they felt like rebelling against, but there was always a sense that they were rebelling against authority of some sort. This trope, the rebellious teenager who feels like he's being kept down by the man, has been around for as long as their have been students.
Implicit in that trope is the idea that you want more free speech rather than less. I have things to say. My principal won't let me wear a Radiohead t-shirt to school or dye my hair or grow it long, or piece my nose. He's bad, because he's stepping on my freedom to express myself.
In fact, I had a flap with the administration at my high school, who wanted me to cut my hair after I returned from a year spent in Russia. I remember writing an incredibly intelligent and well thought-out essay in the school newspaper considering the history of males with long hair, and arguing that the administration was confining itself to an arbitrary historical viewpoint, blah blah blah.
The idea that 17% of high schools students, then, think people should not be allowed to express unpopular views is very disturbing to me, because it seems to represent a very different world than the one I went to high school in. Most disturbingly, it makes me feel old.
The article says,
Federal and state officials, meanwhile, have bemoaned a lack of knowledge of U.S. civics and history among young people. Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., has even pushed through a mandate that schools must teach about the Constitution on Sept. 17, the date it was signed in 1787.
Which is fine, and I'll second their bemoaning, but it misses the larger point. It's not important that a high school kid can tell you what day the constitution was signed; it's a question of (I can't believe I'm saying this) values. And if only 2/3 of high school students think that newspapers should be free of government censorship, American society, as a coherent entity, has really failed to incucate its value system, to lay the groundrules for being a human being in this country.