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Vandegrift Voice

Pro vs. Con: Freedom of Speech

Madeline Smyser and Hadley Hudson

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Pro:

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution declares, among other things, that Americans have the right of free speech. In short, this means that they are able to openly express their opinion, without fear of punishment or restraint.

Free speech is imperative for a functioning democracy. If the American people are not able to speak out for or against something according to their beliefs, then the government holds that much more power over them. As students, the principle of free speech is extremely relevant not only to the students’ futures, but to their present situations. In high school, the voice of the student body needs to be taken seriously, as it is through the constitutional right of free speech that they are able to have input on decisions for the issues that directly affect them.

Free speech  extends far beyond what people actually say with words. It includes freedom of press, writing, art pieces, and more. It covers everything that allows you to express your opinions.

High schoolers and their right to have a say in our school system – whether it was asked for or not- is vital. I’m sure we can all be in agreement that sometimes (or many times) teachers and administrators have no idea what we want. Our freedom to speak out against things that we don’t like and to suggest things that we believe might better the experience of ourselves and our peers is no small gift. Free speech allows us to protest, to celebrate, and to argue our opinions.

While free speech may be a little annoying during election season, that is no reason to do away with it. A world where you cannot speak your mind would be restrictive, fearful, and substandard.

Now, particularly as of late, the right of free speech has been called into question. There are calls for more restrictions so that we will  need to be more “politically correct”. Respectfully, I disagree. There are already quite a number of effective and just limitations on free speech. One example is this: for obvious reasons, you can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater. You also cannot use offensive or violent speech, meaning that no one is allowed to directly threaten or speak to induce violence upon someone else. There are many more limitations, from commercial to government, that are reasonable, but do not restrict the overall goal of freedom of speech.

If free speech were to be limited, who gets to choose what’s limited? Why should one person, or one group of people, be allowed to decide what every U.S. citizen is or is not allowed to say? Obviously, the diversity of views in America is too large to fairly limit free speech any more than it already is.

Comprehensively, free speech is one of the most important rights that we have been given in the United States. As students, we must appreciate it and exercise this true freedom. Thankfully, the restrictions that have already been place on free speech are acceptable, but they have no need to be furthered. All the rights that we have as Americans, especially free speech, are to be treasured and never, ever taken for granted.

 

Con:

Freedom of speech is an extremely important standard in the everyday lives of the American people. Included in the First Amendment of the Constitution, the right to freely speak is strongly fought for all over America.

Although freedom of speech is a highly prioritized in America, and standards need to have limits in certain areas, including schools.

Modern students do in fact have their rights. After a young girl was suspended in school for protesting the Vietnam War, the Supreme Court ruled that students do not lose their right to free speech when they cross the school gate. This is still upheld today, but of course there are still limits to what can be said during school hours. Curse words, threats, and other obscene content is not allowed in school, and that is completely understandable. There is a clear difference between what can be said inside and outside of school, and these rules need to stay this way. It is quite obvious that people should be acting differently while in school versus during their leisure time, so the different standards for these two times are understandable. Students have certain rights to free speech in school, but those rights are in no way the same as free speech outside of the school’s doors, and it deserves to stay that way.

Another point to be made is the fact that students have the right to protest, and have the right to protest anything they believe is wrong. There is nothing wrong with students believing a school is wrong, but protests in and out of school should be different. A school is a place for learning and cooperation between administrators and students for a positive environment. Public or disruptive protest, while legal outside of school, should not be allowed inside. There is a time and place for everything, and when students protest they should know that there are a new set of limits compared to the outside public.

Free speech does exist in school and the government of this country has even said so. Students do have the right to speak up for what they believe in, but punishment is understandable if they cross the line. We should treat students like adults in this case, but there are more restrictions because they are younger and in a school.

These stronger restrictions are understandable, as a serious constitution people should take schools and their guidelines seriously. Freedom of speech is in no way wrong or bad to have, but if any situations arise where someone went too far, a school has the right to step in and punish the student if necessary.

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The online student newspaper of Vandegrift High School
Pro vs. Con: Freedom of Speech