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Taking the Battle for Free Speech to K-12

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Free Speech

Bonnie Snyder | 9.20.2021 1:01 PM

It's understood by most college alumni—and pretty much everyone in the general public, at this point—that open discourse is under assault in higher education, and has been for decades. From demands that speakers with unpopular opinions be disallowed on campus to strident calls for controversial professors to be fired, free speech culture has declined precipitously in academia while the corridor of acceptable opinion has uncomfortably narrowed.

Both faculty and students are clearly on notice that certain opinions are best not expressed, unless you're willing to risk consequences ranging from mild social disapproval to abject humiliation or even outright ejection. It's hardly surprising, then, that survey results reveal high rates of self-censorship in the United States, both on campus and off.

While college and graduate school-level speech censorship is widespread and well-documented, we find ourselves facing an even more alarming problem: this same restrictive culture, with its oppressive conformity demands, has already filtered down to younger students. Recent college graduates—now newly-minted teachers—are bringing these acquired academic habits and expectations to American high-, middle-, and even elementary schools.

It's one thing for college students or faculty to choose to censor their own personally-held viewpoints, but what happens when children absorb the norm of self-silencing before they've even had the opportunity to develop thoughtful, informed opinions in the first place? As deleterious as a censorship........

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