Thursday, September 13, 2007

First Amendment Lite -- Goes Down Easy for Schools!

On the anniversary of 9-11 this week, a North Carolina high school banned students from wearing t-shirts depicting the American flag (or any other flag). Also this week, in our own backyard, Palos Verdes school officials apologized for their overzealousness in squelching student speech when they took to hacking the little rifle-bearing limbs from the army men that students had affixed to their graduation caps in a salute to our overseas troops.

It makes me very nervous that students are given a completely different, and drastically reduced, measure of First Amendment protection. The U.S. Constitution was not written as a school charter, and that pesky freedom of speech would make it hard to establish an effective pedagogy. Government-provided education isn't guaranteed by the Constitution, of course, but dammit it should be, right? The children are our future, surely our Founders can't argue with that. Thus we should employ an appropriate level of generality to the First Amendment such that public school administrators can trample on what would otherwise be protected speech.

Of course the fallacy in that argument is that there is no fundamental right to public education. But there is such a right to free speech. So what happened such that a fundamental right got trampled under what is basically a non-right? Actually, don't answer that. It's too depressing.

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