Adviser Update Adviser Update Winter 2018 - Page 26

Keep the First Amendment on the Front Burner T he First Amendment and free speech have been in the news a lot lately. From players “taking a knee” during the national anthem at National Football League games to student eruptions on college campuses protesting controversial speakers to marches by white supremacists in Virginia this summer, there is much ado about speaking, protesting, assembling, petitioning and practicing one’s religion. The First Amendment is a topic journalism educators hold dear. It’s the rights enshrined in those 45 words that give students (and everyone) a chance to use their voices to seek change and to better the world. By seeing the inspiring work students create, we know the power such freedom can unleash for creating informed, thinking citizens. TREVOR IVAN Trevor Ivan is a journalism educator and communication professional. He has worked at the Center for Scholastic Journalism at Kent State University and for the National Scholastic Press Association/ Associated Collegiate Press. In addition to serving as a public relations director for several non- profit organizations, he also judges scholastic journalism competitions, presents at workshops and blogs about journalism education at www. jeducatorreflections.wordpress.com. But it’s sad to say your journalism class might be the only guidance students receive about these laws and principles that are the bedrock of how our society functions. Journalism educators must lead the charge to help students understand how the First Amendment works and to be its most ardent champions. And at times, that’s a tall order. How do we help students understand the importance of free speech in a situation in which the speaker degrades those of a different ethnicity or sexual orientation? How can we teach students to understand the inherent value of free speech without getting drowned out by the loud voices rightfully decrying hateful and vile messages? This all begins by educating students (and adults) about how the First Amendment works and why it protects the things it does. These are some basic principles to begin the conversation: + The First Amendment only limits the government from censoring or punishing speech. “The government” includes everything from the presidency and Congress down to city councils, police and even public schools and universities. If a privately owned social media platform blocks a user’s hateful rhetoric or a newspaper refuses to publish a commentary, the writer’s free speech rights are not being violated. This is also why students at private schools often don’t have the same free-speech protect )́ѡ͔Չ̸͍