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The First Amendment MAG
“Congress shall make no lawrespecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the freeexercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition thegovernment for a redress of grievances.”
- First Amendmentof the U.S. Constitution
In 1789, a powerful amendment toprotect the opinions of the public was added to the U.S. Constitution.The First Amendment helped form the basis of American society but todaymany citizens either do not understand it or take it for granted.Teenagers are no exception with most of us ignorant of itsimportance.
So, what is the First Amendment? It is the basis andblueprint of modern-day society. This act allows freedom of speech,religion, assembly, press, and petition.
In 2005, the James S.and James L. Knight Foundation sponsored a $1 million study that polled112,003 high-school students. Its goal was to determine what teensactually know about the First Amendment. Among the results:
Sixty-twopercent of those polled have a GPA above 3.1 and 87 percent plan to goto college, but these shocking results support the thesis claimingteenagers’ ignorance of the First Amendment. Though some views maybe unpopular, they are still opinions and not necessarily wrong.
The First Amendment should have some limitations: “Tryyelling bomb in an airport and see how free speech has limitations: forthe good of the community rather than the individual,” suggestseducator John Borowski (commondreams.org). Words have power. They cancreate happiness, sadness, anger and every feeling in between. Is therea line between what can be said and what can’t? Freedom of speechcomes with a price and that price is meant to benefitsociety.
Only half the students polled agree that newspapersshould be allowed to publish freely without government approval ofstories. “The notion of the press as the fourth branch ofgovernment is sometimes used to compare the press (or media) withMontesquieu’s three branches of government, namely an addition tothe legislative, the executive and the judiciary branches”(Wikipedia). The press serves society by presenting it with news. If thegovernment were allowed to check stories before they were printed,nothing negative would ever be seen by the public.
Half thestudents polled believe that the government can censor the internet.This is false. The internet is another form of speech and cannot belimited precisely because it is protected by the Constitution. Why dostudents know so little about it?
“Schools don’t doenough to teach the First Amendment. Students often don’t know therights it protects,” says Linda Puntney, executive director of theJournalism Education Association. “This all comes at a time whenthere is decreasing passion for much of anything. And, you have to bepassionate about the First Amendment” (MSNBC).
It is sad torealize that students who are the future know so little about thisfundamental basis of American society. These are the teenagers who willgo to war and fight for rights they don’t appreciate forthemselves. These are the teenagers who believe that the First Amendmentgoes “too far,” who believe that unpopular opinions shouldnot be voiced.
But how can every voice be heard? How caneveryone be treated equally? What should the government do? Do theyavoid the opinions of the public that they disagree with? Isn’tthat a dictatorship? America was built on the grounds that any opinioncan be voiced. That is why the First Amendment was created. It is anever-ending circle.