Editorial: Freedom of speech in schools

We have the privilege of living in a nation in which free speech is permitted and encouraged, and we attend a school where administrators place very few, if any, restrictions on our speech, notwithstanding various Supreme Court decisions that permit them to do so.  However, with these privileges come obligations.  The most important of these obligations is to use our speech in a manner that is fair and not misleading.  It is very important to understand that there is a difference between free speech and fair speech.

Recently, the school’s newly formed chapter of Turning Point USA held a meeting to discuss the United States’ gender wage gap.  In the lead-up to the club’s discussion, signs were posted around the school that read, in all capital letters, “Big government is the real war on women,” and “Big Government Sucks,” with a photo of a woman whose mouth is covered by a piece of tape.  Signs were also posted advertising the openness of the upcoming discussion.

Although The Schreiber Times lauds the efforts of our school’s chapter of Turning Point USA in terms of discussing of the gender wage gap, it feels that certain assurances provided by the club in promoting its discussion of this event were both baseless and misleading.  It is difficult to hold an open and fair debate when signs are being plastered all over school arguing only one side of that debate, and arguing that side in an uninformed, propaganda-like manner.

The Schreiber Times believes that while free speech is critically important, it is also essential for students to be presented with facts, not with misleading advertisments, in connection with debates about important issues.

Additionally, it feels as though the debate could have been more balanced, and therefore more informative and fair, if the club had had an independent and unbiased moderator preside over the debate, like a teacher who was not at all involved in the club.  We believe in the importance of debates on such important issues in the future, but in a more unbiased fashion. If measures like using an independent moderator are taken, our school could have more open debate without being swayed in a certain direction.

Serious issues, such as the gender wage gap, call for serious discourse.  The signs put up by Turning Point USA, which are still up, are not the answer.  They are examples of negative campaigning, using defamatory slogans and provocative pictures to try to influence the viewers in lieu of rational dialogue.  The signs stand in marked opposition to the actual debate at the advertised meeting, where different views were addressed in a generally thoughtful way.

We need more rational conversation, and fewer negative and misleading signs.  The essence of our system of free speech is that we have the right to engage in all sorts of expression, good and bad, but also that we obligated to avoid irresponsible and misleading discourse.

The Schreiber Times calls on all members of the student body to use responsible methods of communication in expressing their views, and even more importantly, to educate themselves and each other on important matters such as the gender wage gap.