Survey reveals US student apathy for freedom of speech

From Wikinews, the free news source you can write!
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Monday, January 31, 2005

WASHINGTON, D.C — US students are apathetic about their First Amendment rights to free speech, according to the largest study of its kind, released today by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Most students surveyed said they believed flag burning is illegal, half that the government can censor the internet, and half that government approval should be required for stories published in the press.

“These results are not only disturbing; they are dangerous,” said Knight Foundation President and CEO Hodding Carter III. “Ignorance about the basics of this free society is a danger to our nation’s future.”

Researchers from the University of Connecticut questioned more than 100,000 high school students, nearly 8,000 teachers, and more than 500 administrators and principals, in a two-year study costing US$1 million. Entitled The Future of the First Amendment, the study was commissioned by the Florida-based John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

According to the study, teaching of First Amendment values is effective in redressing the types of misunderstandings revealed, but it concludes even the basics are not being taught effectively now.

Appreciation and understanding of the rights were much greater amongst teachers, principals and adults, studied in this, and other recent studies. In contrast, students were more likely than others to think that potentially offensive song lyrics should be allowed, and student publications should not require approval from the school authorities.

Other findings included that one in five schools offer no student media whatsoever, and that finances limit the ability of administrators to offer such opportunities for student expression, particularly for low income, inner city and regional schools; and that student participation in student media increased appreciation for First Amendment rights.