When things go right: students speaking up for free speech

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Mark in the blog comments pointed out yesterday that he’d like to see more stories about students standing up for their rights. Student newspapers have great editorials supporting free speech, even in dicey cases like JuicyCampus (JuicyCampus itself is no longer running, but a replacement has already sprung up). NCAC’s film contest gives youth the chance to tell their story.

But recently, there’s been controversy surrounding two videos shown in a high school classroom. The school board decided that the teacher showing one video (from PBS) was considered fair, but the second “The Story of Stuff” was too one-sided (it is critical of American consumer culture and of the relationship between government and corporations), and that in showing it, the teacher violated the school’s policy of academic freedom.


4&20 Blackbirds reprints a student’s statement about the school board meeting called to respond to the board’s decision. Here’s a long excerpt from her very thoughtful piece:

A year ago, if I had heard about the school board meeting that took place on Jan. 29, 2009, I would have been concerned but not active. Last year the school board ruled memorials unacceptable for school settings because they made it “harder to get past a classmate’s death”. The Lance staff, along with The Halberd staff (yearbook), strongly opposed this decision. However, it never occurred to me to speak up other than to write a column that few administrators even read. This time is different. In the last week I have been affected as a journalist, student, tax payer and community member. With further thought, research, and support from friends and mentors, I learned that I can do more than write a few hundred word story for a high school publication—I can take my argument directly to the school board and if they don’t listen, I can elect a new one. …

[At the meeting,] I explained the implied censorship the school board’s decision had created. I pointed out that a few students’ and one parent complaint did not justify such a decision. There should have been more student input and the school board should have reached out to classrooms. I confessed that I had watched the video and while I disagreed with some of the points it brought forth, I didn’t feel the need to remove it from schools. I spoke for myself and my peers when I said that our favorite teachers are the ones who push our buttons, inspire us use our minds, and who don’t follow boring text books. …

My closing statement, I feel, really hit home with some of the board members (except Rick Johns who was scowling the whole time). “If my generation is the ‘future’, censorship is only setting us up to fail. We are nearly adults and we need to be treated as such. We want our right to a well-rounded education, including exposure to controversial materials and the opportunity to discuss them and form our OWN, INDEPENDENT opinions. Please, I encourage you to overturn this decision.” …

About Blog of the National Coalition Against Censorship

Blogging Censorship is where National Coalition Against Censorship staff weigh in on the censorship issues on their minds.
This entry was posted in Sarah Falcon: Author and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to When things go right: students speaking up for free speech

  1. Mark says:

    Thanks for the rapid response and for the interaction. An informative post and links. Keep up the good work of keeping us informed.

  2. Pingback: Update on “The Story of Stuff” – it’s “spreading and spreading” « Blogging Censorship

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