Free speech restrictions mean twisted worldview

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One of my favorite cities in the United States is Washington, where I spent this past weekend with fellow editors Kelsey Ghering and Olivia Burger.

In addition to the bustling metropolitan area and nightlife, the city also has rich cultural and historical components to it. I could spend weeks wandering in and out of the many museums, monuments and memorials that the city has to offer.

This time, we were in the city for a journalism conference. In addition to seeing Bob Woodward, the journalist who helped break the Watergate scandal, and Edward Snowden, the former CIA worker who exposed the government’s illegal surveillance activities, I also attended a seminar on the First Amendment and how it applies to student media.

The seminar was run by Catherine Sevcenko, the director of litigation from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which deals with issues of freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty and sanctity of conscience on college campuses, specifically dealing with student publications.

I was simultaneously disappointed, frustrated and annoyed when I found out that the First Amendment doesn’t apply to private schools.

Maybe it’s because I don’t understand the politics of it all, but I don’t think that schools should get government money if they aren’t going to abide by federal laws.

In public schools, students have complete protection from the First Amendment. I, on the other hand, do not.

In religious schools, students are discouraged from publishing anything that challenges beliefs.

This is problematic because it is painting a one-sided picture for students. I understand that religious schools have the right to express their beliefs. I understand that students make the choice to go to these schools.

But what I don’t understand is how these institutions can perpetuate such a limited reality of life.

Just because something doesn’t align with your beliefs, doesn’t mean that you can pretend it doesn’t exist – that’s not how the world works.

By restricting students’ freedom of speech, you are telling students that there is only one way of thinking that is acceptable – and that is by no means correct or even moral.

Just because you don’t talk about something, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

Talking about these issues facilitates conversation around them – it lets us discuss the issue and share our points of view. Talking about them helps us understand them, which, in turn, helps us form a well-rounded and inclusive society.

Faculty members at Gannon want us to succeed – they want us to learn and broaden our world views. That’s why free speech is such an important concept and freedom to have. It helps us grow.