Tuesday, February 01, 2005

A sign of the coming apocalypse

I'm cringing as I write this. From a Jan. 31 AP story:

"...when told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes "too far" in the rights it guarantees. Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories."

The worst part is that I'm not sure who to blame for this: parents, the schools, the media, or all of the above. If there is one undeniable indicator of America's decline, this is it. We've done a lot of stupid things as a country during the last 215 years, but we could always consider ourselves enlightened (no I'm not being sarcastic, I really mean this) because we have the Bill of Rights. The US ranks behind European countries on many measures of civilization, but no other country can rival our protection of freedom of speech. If the next generation doesn't understand its importance, we are truly doomed.

I have always said that focusing on education is the one step I am sure we can take to improve our society and the lives of the people in it. Now that I am aware of this flagrant misconception, I pledge to shout the First Amendment from the rooftops and explain its importance to allcomers. So let me start here, in case you don't remember the exact wording:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

I'm going to post this on my office door. I'm going to hand it out to all my students. I'm going to find other ways to educate as many people as I can about the importance of the First Amendment. I'd love to hear any ideas you might have. If you're looking for more information, check out the First Amendment Center.

I hope this trend can be reversed, for all of our sakes.