By Bill Korach www.thereportcard.org
A new Brookings institute study by John Villasenor surveyed 1500 undergraduates and found a shocking level of ignorance about free speech. The majority of students surveyed did not know that even hate speech is protected. Fully 50% of the respondents said that it’s ok to shout down a speaker whose views they don’t support. Fully 20% believe that violence is justifiable to prevent someone from speaking. Mr. Villasenor says “Freedom of Expression is deeply imperiled on U.S. campuses.
Given the scenes taking place across college campuses in recent years, these responses may not come as a surprise; however, the results do underscore a failure on the part of the public school system to educate students on the Constitution. If the surveyed students truly understood the Constitution, they would know that there is no such thing as a “hate speech” exception to the First Amendment, and that speech is not violence, as has become the maxim of groups such as Antifa, who then argue that it is appropriate to respond to that violence with more violence.
The results also underscore that institutions of higher education are not only failing to instill in its students a reverence for civil liberties and free speech, but are in fact churning out hordes of hypersensitive snowflakes who need safe spaces to be protected from anything they perceive to be offensive rather than engage in healthy, intelligent debate. And sadly, as time progresses, the number of items considered offensive is growing at a startling rate.
The clearest evidence of this can be seen in the response to the final question of the survey.
If you had to choose one of the options below, which do you think it is more important for colleges to do?
Option 1: create a positive learning environment for all students by prohibiting certain speech or expression of viewpoints that are offensive or biased against certain groups of people
Option 2: create an open learning environment where students are exposed to all types of speech and viewpoints, even if it means allowing speech that is offensive or biased against certain groups of people?
Sadly, 53 percent of students selected the first option. Confusingly, 47 percent chose the second option, though based on the other results, it seems that these students are tolerant of only specific types of speech and viewpoints.
In its introduction to the study, the Brookings Institution wrote that college students’ views of the First Amendment are profoundly important because campuses are expected to be places “where intellectual debate should flourish.” The only way that can happen is if “campuses are places where viewpoint diversity is celebrated, and where the First Amendment is honored in practice and not only in theory.” The results of this study reveal that this is no longer the reality.
Clearly colleges and K-12 education is clearly failing to educate students about basic American civics and the Constitution. This is dangerous for them and dangerous for the future of the Republic.