Magazine article American Journalism Review

Teach Kids the Value of Free Expression

Magazine article American Journalism Review

Teach Kids the Value of Free Expression

Article excerpt

One of my colleagues at The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center has a slightly worn $10 bill he holds up at speeches around the country and offers to anyone who can recite the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment.

He has been doing this for quite some time. He speaks before lawyers, teachers, clergy, journalists and community leaders of accomplishment and erudition. He has the same $10 bill he started with.

That's a travesty -- that Americans have so little familiarity with the 45 words that ensure freedom of religion, freedom of speech, a free press, and the right to assemble peacefully and to petition government for a redress of grievances.

Unfortunately, the public attitude toward the First Amendment often extends beyond ignorance and apathy to outright hostility.

Those who have studied the matter agree that if the First Amendment were presented to the American public for approval today, it would not be approved

Instead, elected leaders regularly and routinely propose laws that would trample the rights and values guaranteed by the First Amendment. Intellectual leaders propose elaborate justifications for regulating free expression on and off the college and university campus. Minority groups, feminists and others turn their fury on the First Amendment, insisting that it is a weapon wielded on behalf of bias and bigotry.

They are encouraged by a public that to a significant extent sees no value in the First Amendment because it shields publishers who purvey pornography, journalists who invade people's privacy and destroy their reputations, and TV and movie moguls who peddle violence and sex. …

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