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First Amendment in Schools

Just because my seat is stuck to a desk, doesn't mean you can take my voice.

by Jake Grosvenor, Opinions Editor

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The first amendment: the right that everyone has the right to say what they want when they want, or freedom of speech. It was one of the most important things to our founding fathers when making the U.S.A. and our constitution. However, while we are guaranteed this right, it seems that schools don’t think students are worthy of this right.

Freedom of speech has been a hot topic in schools for years. The debate of what students can say and publish has always rode a fine line. It seems that there is never a clear view on what we are allowed to say or write. This leaves it to the hands of teachers, and it seems, because they get the big desk and access to the teacher’s lounge, they can take our voice like they take our homework.

I think every student has felt what I’m saying to some extent. You’re sitting there in class and someone mentions a topic you feel so passionate about, but you say nothing, You worry whether you’ll get in trouble for disagreeing, or taking a stance different than what you are taught. If you’ve ever felt that, you’re not alone.

It’s not right that we should fear to speak out voices when we are old enough to drive and have a job. While there is a fine line between forcing your ideals onto others and speaking your mind, we shouldn’t be silenced.

If you’ve read anything by me before you know I’m open to any topic and willing to talk about it. Not all students feel that same sense of self, and it’s wrong. There’s a certain sense of bravery and success when you speak your mind and here others’ feedback.

I’ll forever remember talking about Fahrenheit 451  and discussing censorship in the 21st century. Hearing someone say that we can’t relate to this book because we don’t burn literature upset me and I took the chance to speak up.

I went on for a few minutes saying that censorship isn’t just burning books, it’s not allowing PG-13 movies in schools full of 15-year-olds. It’s not letting students read a certain book because teachers think it’s “too mature.” It’s taking away a student’s right to speak against an idea, and when I finished I felt like I truly reached out.

Some teachers don’t want this though; they think that their lesson plan is the one and only way you’ll ever learn. Any and all discussion is wrong, and they think that the only knowledge you get is from them.

“Knowledge only comes from communication, I don’t think you learn very much on your own. So when you let other people talk and ideas sort of get together and they marry, you get intelligence,” says Mr. Mast, an English teacher here at Palo.

Censorship is everywhere, and most certainly in schools. We aren’t allowed to read a book for English if it’s “bad,” we can’t wear a shirt with a skull or blood because it’s promoting violence. Yes, my shirt might have blood on it; it’s Dexter, what do you expect? But what are you proving when your books promote the spooning out of someone’s eye? I’m looking at you King Lear, or how about stabbing Julius Caesar over and over?

That’s far worse than the little bit of blood on my bowl till you bleed shirt.

Taking away our voices is more than just telling us what we can’t say. It’s saying we can’t wear tank tops because it’s “revealing” even though cheerleaders show far more than my tank top ever would. It’s not allowing books like American Psycho in the library because it’s mature.

It’s time to stop babying teenagers; they’re old enough to know what they want to read and not read. They know that just because a shirt has blood or a skull, that doesn’t make violence okay. And telling a student they can’t talk their mind because they are too young and immature is out right wrong.

Take my homework, take my test, you can even take my food if I buy it during class. But you have no right to take my freedom to express my joys, shirts, books or jackets: it’s my life and my first amendment. It’s my right to say what I want, not yours.

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First Amendment in Schools