Support for First Amendment Eroding Among College Students

free-speech-joke-sensitivity first amendment college students“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it,” Evelyn Beatrice Hall once wrote. Hall’s pithy, concise quote is considered by many to be the ultimate defense of free speech. It was a truism; something we all, liberal and conservative alike, agreed upon in America. But on American college campuses in recent years, it appears as if an unseen editor has added the clause “unless what you say offends me” to Hall’s quote.

A recent Gallup/Knight Foundation survey gives some interesting insights into how today’s college students view our First Amendment-protected rights.

Twenty-nine percent of college students said it is acceptable for colleges to “promote a postive environment” by prohibiting certain speech, up from 22 percent in 2016, while 70 percent said they favored an “open learning environment” that allowed offensive speech, down from 78 percent in 2016.

Inclusion is apparently more important to today’s college students than free speech. When asked which is more important, protecting free speech rights or promoting an inclusive environment, students chose inclusion 53 percent to 46 percent. While being inclusive is certainly important, there’s no way it should more important than a person’s right to speak their mind without fear of retribution.

And that retribution is not simply a matter of being shouted down by oversensitive fellow students or marginalized by leftist professors. Many universities have now enacted speech codes, which prohibit certain speech on campuses. Failing to comply with these speech codes often comes with real life penalties, including fines, academic probation, and even expulsion. With America’s universities now “abridging the freedom of speech” on campuses, are such restrictions on everyday Americans far behind?

Thirty-seven percent of college students believe that it is sometimes acceptable to shout down speakers with whom they disagree. More startling, 10 percent of students believe that it is acceptable to use violence in order to shut down a speech. While 10 percent seems like a low number, if the poll is correct, it means that more than two million American college students believe that it is ok to use violence in order to shut down a speaker they disagree with. This is what happened last year when Charles Murray attempted to speak at Middlebury College in Vermont.

It’s easy to forget how good we’ve had it in America. While many places in the world claim to cherish the concept of free speech, the United States is really the only place where it is codified in law that the right exists. On that note, while the majority of college students surveyed did support the First Amendment’s protections for freedom of speech, they feel those rights are becoming less secure in America. Sixty-four percent of students believe that the right to free speech is secure, down from 73 percent in 2016. Belief that the freedom of religion is secure is more stable, but still dropped from 68 percent in 2016 down to 64 percent. Belief that the freedom of the press is secure dropped radically, from 81 percent in 2016 down to 60 percent today.

Canada offers a good example as to where free-speech rights in this country could be headed. In June of 2017, our neighbor to the north passed bill C-16, a law which compels Canadians to use the pronouns that transgender people prefer under penalty of law. Misuse of such pronouns (including manufactured pronouns such as ze, zir, hir, and mer) is considered a “hate crime” in Canada.

University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson caused an internet firestorm with his video arguing against the law. “I’m nervous about doing this lecture and I’ve also become nervous about some of the things that I’m teaching,” Peterson said. “I think that some of the things that I say in my lectures now might be illegal…. I think that they might even be sufficient for me to be brought before the Ontario Human Rights Commission under their amended hate speech laws. And that scares me….”

Such laws may seem to be the problem of other countries. After all, in America we have the First Amendment to protect our free speech. Maybe, but as far as our Bill of Rights goes, one need only look to the Second Amendment to see how rights can be whittled away. “The right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed,” seems pretty clear. But that right has been infringed upon many times in the form of restrictive purchasing laws. Now, groups such as March for our Lives look to restrict gun ownership even further.

So, it’s prudent to keep a watchful eye on all assaults on our free speech, especially on college campuses where, presumably, the leaders of our next generation are being groomed.

Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s quote remains the gold standard of words in defense of free speech. But Peterson recently uttered another truism that deserves to go beside it. When asked by British talking head Cathy Newman why his freedom of speech should trump a transgendered person’s right not to be offended, he offered this zinger: “Because in order to be able to think, you have to risk being offensive.”

From - The New American - by James Murphy

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Alan R Teague
3 years ago

And we were taught that Canada was a free country.

Wayne Peterkin
3 years ago

The question is why is this happening. I would argue its because our kids today from the start of school right through college are indoctrinated with left-wing theology, propaganda really, while at the same time getting no education at all in civics or American History as it relates to the founders’ principles and the reason our Constitution is what it is. I personally feel that “The 5000 Year Leap” should be required study at some point prior to college, but of course it is not. Sadly, I see little to change this trend and if it continues our nation will fail and become another socialist cesspool.

3 years ago
Reply to  Wayne Peterkin

The teachers are not the same as years ago and don’t forget during Obama’s eight years, remember the Common Core. We never had this. This is why these kids are indoctrinated with left-wing theology. There aren’t educated enough like we were. That’s why they don’t know anything. Very very sad. Even college kids aren’t educated enough because these professors aren’t trained like years ago. If this keep up, there will be no change at all.

Paul W
3 years ago

Nobody has a right to NOT be offended. Of course, saying this on a college campus might get you stoned to death. Tolerant little darlins’!

3 years ago

These are the same youngsters who
Would probably like to lower the voting age so they can
Implement their naive nirvana agenda to only
Perhaps later realize that they have
Created just another miserable socialist armpit
Where they will never be able to gain employment sufficient enough to
Pay off their college debt and the professors who lobbied for their socialist existence.

Charles Daugher
3 years ago

The same parents who are so afraid of their kids that they raise them without discipline, so the kids take over, are the parents who pay dearly to send their kids off to colleges that are loaded with socialist/communists professors – and the taxpayers in this Country continue to pay for it. Before you vote for bills that put additional money into the coffers of state universities that teach your kids this crap, you ought to think about these statistics and stay home!

Wayne Peterkin
3 years ago

Many if not most of today’s parents never have understood that you cannot be a good parent and your kid’s best friend at the same time.

3 years ago

The snowflakes will be in for a rude awakening when they get out into the real world. When they start to melt there will be a puddle the size of Lake Erie.
It may be the time has come for some good old fashioned butt kicking , may knock some sense into these folks.

3 years ago

The socialist professors are winning. Their indoctrination is working.

3 years ago
Reply to  Ladyhenry

Big time Bummer that
These professors who are so
Full of themselves and living a WonderLand existence are
Permitted to have this kind of mega influence
Life is so much easier for them
when they have a captive audience that can be victimized with grade extortion.
Why would they allow contrarian views that could only complicate things with the truth.

3 years ago

This, and other Anti-American attacks by mercenary Socialists is EXACTLY WHY a Civil War is coming and oddly enough, it’s the LEFT that is calling for it!!! The church’s better wake up and start educating their flock about good vs evil and the need to fight the evil which clearly is rooted in Socialism/Communism & the Democrat Party. Turning the other cheek is no longer an option! Don’t believe it? See the movie “Paul the Apostle” and understand what will happen to half the population of the U.S. if we do not stand up and carry out a political crusade to save our once great country!

3 years ago
Reply to  Wingleader69

Very good comment.

Wayne Peterkin
3 years ago
Reply to  Wingleader69

Agreed. But sadly too many of the chruches that still focus on good and evil fail to relate the biblical teaching to our modern society, making it more of an ancient history lesson with little relevance today.

3 years ago
Reply to  Wingleader69

I agree with you But I just sat there is no Democrat party a Junior high teacher told my class that there will not be a Democrat party they will become the Progressive party in other words they are Communist ! But I have come to call them Democrap that I’d what they are!

3 years ago

Well given the fact that almost all colleges employ entire staffs of Professors and their teaching assistants that hew strictly to the socialist dogmas and demand of their student total and complete acceptance of the socialist views they teach in their classrooms or face either failure of the course of expulsion from the course, is it really any wonder that what you have is a growing percentage of the student population not only accepting such anti-American views, but also openly adopting those views themselves? This is what you get when parents decide to turn a blind eye to the reality of what most colleges are in this country: Left wing propaganda and indoctrination centers designed to ,old the minds of impressionable youth into the useful idiots the left needs to re-make this nation. This is NOT a new problem, so please no “It’s all Obama’s fault” nonsense. The election and re-election of Obama was merely the result of this successful indoctrination process being allowed to go unchecked for decades, resulting in millions of useful idiots being churned out to vote for a candidate openly espousing all the core principles of socialism. In one sort of perverse sort of way, we have to actually thank Hillary Clinton for running in 2016, because she split the Democrat vote enough to ensure a lot of disillusioned Democrats stayed home on election night in protest to their clearly preferred candidate, Bernie Sanders, NOT being the Democrat nominee on the ballot. At some point, Americans have to decide that it is not in either the best interests of their children, themselves or the nation to continue to send their children off to what are essentially re-education camps, that they pay dearly for, to turn the next generation into useful idiots for the socialist cause. If not, don’t be surprised when such poll numbers eventually show over-whelming majority support for eliminating free speech. Just a thought.

3 years ago
Reply to  PaulE

The problem goes even further back than college. They have not been taught American History nor the Constitution. They have not been taught about how the Constitution came to be after we fought a war with England to end the very tyranny that they are trying to bring about. Their efforts are because they don’t have enough information to avoid the “unintended circumstances” of their decisions.

3 years ago
Reply to  charlesw04

charles04 I agree with you as I remember back in the 50’s , I didn’t know much about the American History nor the Constitution. I know more about these now as over the years, I had been reading a lot on my own. I am sorry to say that also even back in the 50’s, some of the teachers aren’t so bright.

Ivan Berry
3 years ago
Reply to  Sheila

Sheila, you by this point know also that inclusion should apply to everyone, every thought, every one’s spoken words, and that exclusion of one group (the majority who preferred allowing offensive speech 70% to 22% from the questionaire), is exclusion not inclusion, because some may speak of moral standards, some of religion of which some anti-First Amendment so-called scholars object.
They claim they support diversity, while actually only willing to accept selective diversity which is no diversity at all.
Selective diversity to exclude conservatives is political and not cultural. It was not politics that built this nation, but rather, our cultural heritage and the wisdom of our founders.
That you are in a learning mode, just remember, it’s better late than never. Here is hoping that conservatives haven’t waited too long. Yes, better late than never, unless we’re too late. Here’s hoping we still have time to correct the trajectory we have been on for well over the past four generations.

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