free expression in our schools

(Washington, DC) This is an audio podcast of me talking with Frank LoMonte, Executive Director of The Student Press Law Center, who defends free expression in schools. Frank and I discussed the Commission on Youth Voting and Civic Knowledge and its recent report β€œAll Together Now: Collaboration and Innovation for Youth Engagement.” The report is relevant to the First Amendment concerns of the Student Press Law Center because it emphasizes “free expression and civil deliberation” (p. 24-25) as essential aspects of civic education:

Young people need the space and encouragement to form and refine their own positions on political issues, even if their views happen to be controversial. Adults, schools, political officials, and youth themselves must adopt a generally tolerant and welcoming attitude toward this process of developing and expressing a political identity.

In the National Youth Survey, discussions of current issues predicted greater electoral engagement. We also find that when parents encouraged their adolescent children to express opinions and disagreements, these young people had higher electoral engagement, political knowledge, and informed voting in 2012. Teachers in our Teacher Survey put a high priority on civic discussion.

Just as young people must be free to adopt and express their own views, they must also be taught and expected to interact with peers and older citizens in ways that involve genuinely understanding alternative views, learning from these discussions, and collaborating on common goals.

In the podcast, Frank and I discuss the serious obstacles to this kind of education–unhelpful tests and standards, parental resistance, a caustic media environment–and how to overcome them.