Freedom of Speech

I'm sure to step on toes today. Sorry in advance. I don't mean to, but I feel very strongly about this issue. The freedom of speech. We all have our own opinions, right? So, why are we so eager to censor others, just because we disagree with them.  This has made it to the news in different levels this week, but all alarming.

First, a student was denied his diploma because he did not read the speech prepared by school administrators. He wrote one thanking his mother and God. Apparently, this was unacceptable to school administrators and teachers. Later, he was given his diploma and an apology, but what did he learn from this instance? I hope that he learned that defending freedom, everyone's freedom, not just those who agree with you is important. He has already enlisted in the military so he apparently believes in fighting for freedom. I hope that all of the administrators and teachers that condemned him will appreciate his service which protects their freedom. What was also disturbing to me was the fact that the journalist reporting the incident lumped all educators into the same basket. According to the news media, we are all a bunch of closed minded individuals that do not applaud our students achievements if they disagree with us and we are not educating them to search for facts and express their opinions. That wouldn't describe me or many of my colleagues. Maybe he should meet some of the teachers I know.

On another level, a woman, wearing a Trump t-shirt, was ridiculed at a Starbucks. She left feeling humiliated. Did the associates forget that she was a customer? Did they think it was okay to print a message to her on her drink? I think they forgot that paying customers are the reason they have job. She did receive an apology from Starbucks, who stated that they will use this as a learning opportunity. Great. I just hope that they do. And, I hope that they instill in their employees a sense of respect regardless of the opinions of others.

Social media certainly hasn't been any help. We think that because we are safe behind our computer screens that it makes it okay to trash someone. We unfriend and block people without giving it a second thought.  Ranting and raving is the norm for some. I don't get it. If you don't like my posts or what I have to say, scroll on by. I'm not forcing you to read it or agree with it. And, please don't call me names. You don't know me. You only read my  FB posts and judge me. I'm not judging you, nor am I being childish and blocking you. I'm reading and, if I don't agree, I respectfully scroll on by.

That is what is missing. Respect. The ability to agree to disagree. It will come as a shock to some that we don't all agree. That doesn't make you right and me wrong. It makes us different. That is what makes us a great nation. We all think for ourselves and forge new ideas and make discoveries. By working together we can do things we could never do alone. Disagreement makes us dig deeper, have a better understanding of what we believe and why we believe it. Disagreement helps us find the bugs in a plan and work them out. Disagreement that results in arguments, violence, depictions of violence, or some other equally immature way only deepen the problem. These methods are not solutions.

Are responsibilities being taught in school, along with freedoms? Do people, young and old alike, realize that with all of our rights we have responsibilities?  Apparently not.  We've crossed the line between socially acceptable and downright disgusting. Are we teaching students what the Constitution and Bill of Rights says or what we want it to say? Do we have the right to force our interpretations on a captive audience? NO. We don't have the privilege of enforcing our ideology in the classroom. We are modeling behavior for impressionable young people that we are teaching how to think for themselves. How to explore and research. Don't believe everything you read or see. We all know the old adage, "You can't yell 'Fire' in a crowded theater." But, do we know the legality behind it and, more importantly, are we teaching it?  You see.. this is the responsibility part. It goes hand in hand with the rights part.  We can't have one without the other. We want our kids to grow up to be independently thinking, mature adults that express themselves wisely. We can do this by teaching the whole picture, not just the one that agrees with us.  After all, it isn't about me. It is about my students and their future.

What freedom is all about! 


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