Adviser Update Adviser Update Winter 2018 | Page 26

Keep the First Amendment on the Front Burner

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 nonprofit organizations , he also judges scholastic journalism competitions , presents at workshops and blogs about journalism education at www . jeducatorreflections . wordpress . com .

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 .
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 protections as those in public schools .