Apathy puts First Amendment in danger

By Carol Singletary: Guest Columnist

Apathy is killing the First Amendment.

This according to the results of the recent Knight Foundation’s report on the state of the First Amendment among high school students and educators.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation commissioned researchers from the University of Connecticut to question more than 100,000 high school students, nearly 8,000 teachers, and more than 500 administrators and principals in a research project, titled “The Future of the First Amendment.”

The results should terrify anyone who believes in the importance of freedom in America. They include:

• Nearly three-fourths of high school students either do not know how they feel about the First Amendment or admit they take it for granted.

• Half of students who do not participate in a school newspaper feel the government should approve a newspaper article before it is published.

• More than a third think the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees.

• More than one in five schools across the country do not offer any student media opportunities. But the study shows students involved in journalism are more likely to understand the First Amendment.

Clovis students are lucky in that we have student media programs at all the secondary schools. They are even luckier because this last summer the school board approved an editorial policy, which puts control of content in the hands of students and trained journalism advisers, not government representatives.

In Clovis, we are training our kids to think responsibly and intelligently, and to take our first freedom seriously. We are not training them to assume the government needs to censor the press.

This is Scholastic Journalism Week, designed to promote a healthy, free and responsible student press.

More communities need to follow Clovis in supporting students and the First Amendment. America needs to keep its cornerstone freedom alive and strong.

Carol Singletary is a journalism instructor at Clovis High School. Contact her at: csingletary@plateautel.net