Freedom of speech is one of the most important values America holds today. It allows Americans to openly express their opinions without censorship or restraint. In fact, many school districts in America have ¨Freedom of Speech Zones” that allow students to express themselves in certain areas. If they are out of the zone, it may result in consequences. Many school Districts also mention they are openly diverse and have a place where one can be themselves, yet such districts deny those who have rather opposing views. In my opinion, freedom of speech is a right individuals should take advantage of as it is useful in providing awareness in today’s society. More specifically, freedom of speech should be honored within higher education. Colleges and high school campuses are a marketplace of ideas for their role in pushing society forward with their constant advocacy for new knowledge and wisdom. If schools continue to overshadow individuals, it would potentially limit the opportunity to progress in society. That is, school systems should accept opposing views rather than limit them in order to pave a way for objective views and macro perspectives.
There are many ways freedom of speech is being challenged in high school and college campuses today. For example, a student at Pierce Community College, Kevin Shaw, was instructed by an administrator to sign a ‘free speech permit’ and was only allowed to distribute the constitution books in a small Free Speech Zone with advance permission. Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon, director of Litigation, FIRE, stated that ¨College was meant to be exactly that time and place in life when students are engaging with their peers vociferously with the things they’re most passionate about. Public institutions need to support that mission by supporting their students right to speak out [anywhere] on campus¨ (thefire.org). In other words, school campuses should allow students to speak their minds anywhere on campus instead of opinions to specific zones. The act of physically limiting students from voicing their thoughts provokes a barrier that in return diminishes the purpose of freedom of speech. How can our right to freedom be free if constraints are placed?
Furthermore, Zach Wood´s, from Williams Community College, had a similar experience. Administration disinvited two speakers because it made them feel “uncomfortable” and “dehumanizing”. Zach Wood, however, was simply trying to give an opportunity to those who have controversial and unweighted views on important topics such as, sexual harassment, climate change, race, class, and gender. Students argued across social media platforms that the act of wanting to bring people with those type of views was causing harm rather than good, describing the act as ¨literal harm, literal violence, psychological and physical violence¨ (thefire.org). Yet, Woods was trying to support the right of freedom of speech and make room for macro perspective, regardless of them being controversial. Essentially, Wood allowed room for individuals to share their thoughts in order to bring light to diverse views and think critically of them.
Wood did not deserve to be judged and attacked all across social media for his interest in exercising freedom of speech. It is emotionally draining, yet the judgment did not let him belittle him nonetheless. He thought of Martin Luther King, giving him the strength to stand up for his beliefs, regardless of the continual oppression from individuals. School Administrators should know it is not reasonable nor ethical to restrict people with opposing views. Bounding the freedom of speech to a municipal area of the grounds in order to keep the campus running properly is unnecessary and defies the purpose of having a right under our first amendment as American citizens.
The idea of liberal education and a free society is undermined when higher discipline overrides opinions. A personal experience of mine revolves around such trouble. As a first-generation college student, I make it a priority to put my education first and seek any and all help necessary to help with my career success. I have family members who are in college and have thus acquired information that has helped me in preparing for college. That is, they are able to guide me and show me possibilities I can take as a junior in high school to prepare for the rigorous work a four-year institution entails. One of which is taking classes at a local community college while in high school, a process titled dual enrollment. This allows me to get ahead in my general education requirements prior to beginning college. When I presented this idea to my high school counselor, I was shut down. Perhaps it was because I presented material the counselor had not been familiar with, but I felt undermined of my potential when my counselor discouraged me taking this step in my educational career. My right to liberal education was overlooked and undervalued.
To conclude, freedom of speech is a very important value to have, especially in higher education because students at colleges and high school campuses are constantly learning new knowledge, helping push society forward. Zach Wood says, ¨If we challenge ourselves to consider the possibility that we might be wrong on the things that we feel the deepest conviction about, it’s not necessarily about your views changing, it’s about gaining a deeper understanding¨ (thefire.org). Freedom of Speech should not be restricted due to controversial views because they help see situations from different perspectives.
- “Free Speech Essay Contest.” FIRE, 2018, www.thefire.org/first-amendment-educational-resources/essay-contest/.