The Magazine

Talk Isn't Cheap

When 'free speech' undermines the First Amendment.

Sep 28, 2009, Vol. 15, No. 02 • By MARY GRABAR
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Of course that assumes that the people have "common sense" or the education and cognitive skills to be able to sort the wheat from the chaff. Therein lies the conundrum, and it is a particularly difficult issue when dealing with students who are in the midst of gaining that knowledge and common sense and attachment to their country.

Tinker helped turn our schools into ideological debating forums that place adult burdens on children at the expense of the basic knowledge necessary to function as good citizens. Parents are often all too ready to protest on behalf of their children's academic standing and to support them in dubious "free speech" issues. Yet, as we saw in this past presidential election, children--many far too young to vote--are subjected to political messages through bulletin boards, curricula, and class discussion, and are made to perform songs, chants, pledges, and dances.

We've gone from black armbands to Barack Obama song-and-dance routines performed by starry-eyed children under the appreciative gaze of parents who would claim to champion their "free speech" rights. Would Plato have foreseen that?

Mary Grabar is a writer in Atlanta.