The United Nations stated that ‘everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expressions; without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’ In Isabel Parkers ‘We the People’ she shares actual examples that provide concrete, tangible evidence to how censorship in school’s harms students ability to learn, trivializes urgent current issues, de-emphasizes student’s expression and robs them of one of their most significant rights.
One alarming aspect of censorship is that it denies students the ability to learn by limiting one class or an entire school the right to read certain texts. Mike Rose a distinguished American scholar argued that many schools, in spite of good intentions, actually deny students the opportunity to develop intellectually: ‘Our approaches to language and literacy as often as not keep us from a deep understanding of differences and problems—and possibilities.’
Parker states: ‘The reduction of censorship in school newspapers will enable students of diverse backgrounds to explore new ideas, implement real change, be creative, and synthesize a colorful and cohesive product.’ When we limit student’s resources for learning because of individual sensitivities, personal views, and parental guidelines we restrict the knowledge available to students and in turn limit their ability to learn.
An additional consequence of censorship that Parker mentions is, it trivializes urgent current issues that many students deal with on a regular basis. She refers to an instance in Michigan where two students put together a piece for their newspaper that included stories of students struggling with mental illness, hoping to raise awareness.
However, the principal would not allow the article to be published. She provides further support by sharing another example that took place in a high school in Virginia where an article was censored because it discussed drug use. She then explains that if these articles were not censored they could have brought peace and answers to students who were struggling with some of those same issues. Some parents and administrators oppose material depicting violence, references to sexuality, or to racial speech. If we actually use these criteria we limit ourselves to the least controversial topics and probably the least relevant material to our society. If we are trying to prepare these students to enter the real world we are in essence crippling them by restricting them to the most pertinent information.
Another harmful effect of censoring is it de-emphasizes student’s expression. In the essay, Parker provides an example, of an article published by two student journalists in The Utah Statesman, Utah State University’s school newspaper, revealed that the John M. Huntsman School of Business was mishandling how tuition was spent. Shortly after the article was published, the school of business corrected the problem. Parker says that if the article was censored or removed perhaps that problem would have never been fixed. When we allow students to voice their opinion it can bring about much needed and positive change.
The First Amendment in the Bill of Rights states: 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. In the essay, Parker states, ‘allowing extensive censorship of student work at the whim of the administration forces students to relinquish their first amendment rights and diminishes the freedoms that govern U.S. laws. In Tinker v. Des Moines, and landmark supreme court case, the court ruled that the rights of public school students guaranteed to them by the first amendment do not disappear as soon as they enter a school.
Censorship in schools is a current issue and it seems to be happening more and more often. It is not something to be ignored. It has a great effect on you personally and as a society as a whole. The results of censorship include limiting student’s ability to learn, de-emphasizing student expression, trivializing urgent current issues, limiting diverse student perspectives and voices, and robbing students of one of their most significant rights. After seeing the many harmful effects of censorship it shows us the gravity of the problem and the importance of finding a solution.