Free Expression, often referred to as “freedom of speech,” is a basic right given by United States Constitution in the First Amendment. This freedom was fundamental to protests through our history that have changed laws that have ultimately saved lives. Whether is was the women of the suffragette movement or the African Americans of the Civil Rights movement, the First Amendment gave all who had something to say the right to do so.
But more than on picket lines and in protest marches, the First Amendment protects our rights to form opinions of our own and to express those opinions. I can’t imagine not having the freedom to put forth ideas in speech, in writing, through whatever media I choose.
Recent news of a poll published by reason.com shows us that common sense is not being applied to the thought processes of college students today.
A depressing new poll demonstrates the extent to which open contempt for free expression has become the default position of college students: a slim majority of surveyed students support regulating permissible speech on campus, and 63 percent believe trigger warnings should be mandatory.
It also seems clear that many young people—particularly liberal young people—see the First Amendment as an obstacle to be overcome, rather than a fundamental bulwark that safeguards their own rights. This is a significant social change; the ‘60s leftists, for instance, properly understood that advocates of radical ideas had to fight for unfettered expression for all in order to guarantee that their own views would be shielded from repression. But perhaps campus leftists can no longer imagine a world where their ideas are broadly vulnerable to censorship—they see the First Amendment as something that only racist, bigoted conservatives need.
This is a far cry from the past where left-wingers political grass-roots movements made a huge difference on the political, social, and economic scenes of the past. Now progressives, as they are called, think that everything any but one of them says is “hate speech.”
The First Amendment is still around and still ready to protect our speech. We need to speak up and use it before we lose it!