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Censorship in High School, From Mark Twain Essay

“It is my will which chooses, and the choice of my will is the only edict I must respect. “-“Anthem” by Ayn Rand. As Americans, we are granted many rights and freedoms which are not given to all nations and countries. These “certain inalienable” rights have been an issue of debate for hundreds of years. High school students are taught the basics of our laws and constitution in government. However, their basic rights afforded to them by the United States are always in question.

While they can work in our society and get tried as adults in court, their first amendment right is taken away daily. Over the years, our greatest novels have been burned or banned, and put in the same category as pornography and smut. Journalism classes have been given only certain topics, upon the discretion of the school board, to publish in newspapers. Even sex education has been stifled in some states because people think it gives permission for teens to be promiscuous, and they need to be sheltered from this.

Instead, we need to prepare them for life in the real world, let them form their own opinions on a variety of topics, and not take away their right to read and learn any subject matter in spite that it might be an uncomfortable issue in society. First, repressing information or misinforming teenagers in schools is immoral and unethical. The topic that is on teenagers minds the most, and is probably explained the least, is sex. By their 18th birthday, 6 in 10 teenage women and nearly 7 in 10 teenage men have had sexual intercourse.

That said, 35% of national public schools necessitate abstinence only in sexual education. The only discussion of birth control and contraception is its ineffectiveness (1). The Alan Guttenmacher institute, which is the National Center for Education Statistics, shows from 1995-2002 teen pregnancy has dramatically declined. The cause of this is due to educated birth control methods, not abstinence. The institute also proved that only 14% of the decline was as a result of prolonging the sexual experience. That leaves 86% of teenagers becoming more aware of safe sex methods and using them.

Since then, the rate has had a plateau and is likely to increase because of these programs. The government spends one hundred and seventy six million dollars annually on abstinence curriculum, and yet “more than 9 out of ten Americans have sex before marriage and have done so for generations. ” I agree that teaching a child sex is foremost the parent’s right and privilege. But why would parents want to mislead their children? also I agree that sexual education should teach abstinence first and primarily. That is why comprehensive sexual education guides teenagers in the right informative direction.

Teachers and parents can inform and educate, sending that teenager out into the world with realistic expectations. With the glorification of sex in the media, the question is can that teenager discern fact from fiction in a moral and knowledgeable fashion? The late 1960s were controversial for the U. S due to its role in Vietnam. In 1967, three students that attended public school in Des Moines, Iowa, were suspended from school. The students decided to wear black armbands to reflect their mourning of soldiers and to signify their opposition of the war.

This monumental case went to the supreme court, where ultimately it was decided: “Prohibition against the expression of opinion, without any evidence that the rule is necessary to avoid substantial interference with school discipline or the rights of others is not permissible under the first and fourteenth amendments”(Tinker vs. Des Moines school district 393 us 503). In 1988 high school journalists tried to publish articles about teen pregnancy and the effects of divorce on students. However, the last two pages of the paper were cut because they were deemed inappropriate.

The school board claimed the right of privacy had been an issue. Also, The principle felt that the topic of sexual activity and birth control were inappropriate and uncomfortable. So do we uphold one right of press above others for privacy? This case went to the United States District Court that claimed “the first amendment rights of students in the public schools are not automatically coextensive with the rights of adults in other settings. ” Judges ruled that a “school need not tolerate student speech that is inconsistent with its basic educational mission, even though the government could not censor similar speech outside the school.

”(2). The Court of Appeals found that the newspaper was “intended to be and operated as a conduit for student viewpoint” and “precluded school officials from censoring its contents except when “‘necessary to avoid material and substantial interference with school work or discipline . . . or the rights of others”(3). Well, what if the school got hit with a law suit due to infringement of privacy? The courts found no lawsuits could have been maintained against the school with the written material. Judge Brennan concluded that no explanation could be given to cut the pages.

They were made “simply because he considered two of the six “inappropriate, personal, sensitive, and unsuitable” for student consumption. He violated the first amendments prohibitions against censorship of any student expression that neither disrupts class work nor invades the rights of others” (3) With court rulings such as this, its hard to believe that schools today are still fighting with students against their right to publish articles that give some sort of meaning to their high school experience. One of the biggest concerns understandably, is a disrupted school environment.

we are there to learn, and it is hard to facilitate that when controversy is on the lips of all. It is hard to make that distinction. But the distinction is there, and if there is an article that talks about viewpoints, concerns, and is informative to current issues, it should not be censored due to the fact that it is uncomfortable for officials. In an era that consists of Paris Hilton, impersonal computers, and video games, maybe schools should give teenagers something that isn’t superficial to be passionate about.

Imagine walking in an English classroom, sitting at a desk and opening the text for the day, which is Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”. Scanning the pages, and then realizing something is not right. There are whole pages missing, and a lot of the writing is blackened out. Someone has vandalized the book! The teacher sorrowfully explains that the school will not let students read certain novels because of vulgarity, sex, violence and “radical ideology”. He also says that “Tom Sawyer”, “A Wrinkle in Time”, and “To Kill A Mockingbird” have been deleted from the curriculum until further notice.

Furthermore, the PTA will be burning all the copies of Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” after football practice if anyone wants to participate. The same happens in art class, where in the textbook all the nude statues and paintings have clothing drawn on them. In biology, any mention of Darwin has been ripped out of the pages of the text book. As extreme as this may sound, these are all incidents that have happened in the present years. As someone who grew up with all these classics in the classroom, I am devastated at the thought of not being able to develop with these characters.

My love of books developed in the second grade, and I never viewed any of the opposing material as controversial. In fact, none of the students in the classrooms broke into riots at the mention of the dreaded “N” word in “Huckleberry Finn”. Actually the teacher used it to explain the word, the history, and how hurtful it was. The book coincided with the lessons we were learning in history on the anti-slavery movement. Trying to protect a young adult from sex and violence is reasonable and should be done on an educated basis. Parents need to be involved in their teenager’s life.

If a book makes them uncomfortable, read the whole book and not just the uncomfortable portions. Discuss the material openly, and help the child form morals and ethics. For the teacher, if a parent has a problem with the material, give the teenager an alternate assignment. Why should every person in that classroom be denied their right to learn? Studies have shown that reading books like these help with the critical thinking process and aides in further education. Schools are forums where students learn to provide objectivity and make their own educated opinions.

Besides, with today’s flow of mass media and internet, teenagers and children are exposed to more questionable resources. They are over exposed to an amount of sex, violence, and vulgarity that no classic literature can compare to. In conclusion, schools should be enlightening teenagers and giving them the tools they need for their future, letting teens shape and articulate their opinions and options realistically, and letting them learn any subject that is pertinent to their life even if it is “taboo” in society.

Legally, schools have to validate banning an opinion, expression, or curriculum by showing that it was for more than a need to stay away from the discomfort that goes with an unpopular viewpoint. I think Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said it best with, “Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime”


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