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How do the experts feel about the study results? On this page we've assembled a great set of quotes from the industry's best. Read on and see what they have to say!


 "The report shows that young people in American are conscious that they are being denied their First Amendment rights."

"A great harm is being done to a generation of young adults by withholding the full access of their constitutional rights while in high school, then expecting them to be full participants in a democratic society when they are older."

"The Knight survey again raises the question of why we think it's necessary to fear the free expression of opinions of young adults."

Gene Policinski
First Amendment Center


“The lack of awareness of the First Amendment on the part of students is shocking on the one hand, but understandable on the other.  The last 15 years have not been a golden era for student media.  Programs are under siege or dying from neglect.  The result: many do not get the opportunity to practice our basic freedoms.”

“The report is a call to action.  Training for students and advisers must be more thorough, center on the basics of news writing and editing, and be based on the First Amendment.  The study also shows that scholastic media training organizations must also focus on principals and administrators.  They can make or break programs.  They can facilitate new student media and fortify existing programs.  They may be the key.”

“We also must reach the education community.  Bring civics back!  Make it part of the core curriculum. Make the First Amendment the first priority!”

Warren Watson
Ball State University


"Schools don't do enough to teach the First Amendment. Students often don't know the rights it protects. This all comes at a time when there is decreasing passion for much of anything. And, you have to be passionate about the First Amendment.'

Linda Puntney
Executive Director, Journalism Education Association


“Wouldn’t it be incredible if we could figure out a way to help people really understand and value our First Amendment? Just think how far we’d have come, as Americans, if every student left school understanding – and believing – that a truly democratic society is premised on all of its people having the freedom to think, write and speak freely. So, I hope what comes out of this (report) is a push for more education on the First Amendment.’’

Rosalind Stark
Retired Executive Director
Radio and Television News Directors Foundation
Board member, Student Press Law Center


“This report illuminates an untenable gap in our education system in teaching and understanding the First Amendment and the freedoms we cherish. Therefore, it’s no surprise the health of scholastic journalism is in jeopardy. One effective remedy is to build and nurture quality student media that operates freely and without censorship. Media by and for students engages and energizes the school community. It is democracy in action.’’

Diana Mitsu Klos
Senior Project Director, American Society of Newspaper Editors Foundation

“Although the First Amendment is covered in history and government classes, the treatment of First Amendment issues is often superficial. The five freedoms of the First Amendment are at the heart of what it means to be an American. Throughout American history, these freedoms have been used by every great social movement - from abolition to suffrage to civil rights - to make our nation more just and free.”

“The only way to teach the First Amendment effectively is to practice the First Amendment throughout the school culture. School officials fail to teach the First Amendment when they talk about the First Amendment, but discourage free expression, deny religious liberty, and censor the student press. Far too many schools are failing to teach, practice and model the First Amendment. “

“The biggest obstacle to practicing First Amendment principles in schools is the undemocratic,  repressive way in which many schools are run. If schools want to take the First Amendment seriously, they must give students and all members of the school community a meaningful voice in shaping the life of the school. The biggest obstacle to teaching student media are budget cuts and the myopic focus on high-stakes testing.”

Charles Haynes
Senior Scholar
Freedom Forum First Amendment Center
Vanderbilt University
Nashville, Tenn.


“Without an understanding of, and appreciation for, the First Amendment students don't know what their rights are. Again, the best advisers are the ones who teach the kids much more than how to write a lede or lay out a paper.”

“Schools aren’t doing enough to encourage student media. And many schools aren't getting much help from the "professional" media as well. One anecdote: A number of years ago at a meeting of the ASNE Education Committee, one of the members (since retired) opined that he didn't think high school students were capable of understanding all the ramifications of the First Amendment and he would be darned if he'd do anything in his newspaper to support student press rights. With that kind of support from the professional media, who needs enemies?”

“Support for the teaching of student media and First Amendment has to come from the top down, from the superintendent of schools to the principal to the adviser to the student. Too often the newspaper adviser is "the new kid on the block" who is far more interested in getting tenure than rocking the boat. Support among fellow teachers often is lacking as well. It gets disheartening very quickly when you're one person fighting against many.”

Richard Holden
Executive Director
Dow Jones Newspaper Fund


“The First Amendment gets some attention in schools, but often not enough attention … Schools face an increasing amount of pressure to educate every child to meet certain levels of achievement and  comprehension of the basic subject core material.  Increased graduation  requirements have limited the opportunity for students to pursue electives in the curriculum.”

“A concern is who is best qualified to teach this subject matter? In an era where the demands for graduation requirements have already pushed scholastic journalism and student media into a "not really needed or required role" how does a curriculum director or school administrator find space and qualified teaching staff to add this component?”

“We can look at the dramatic decline of student newspapers in the major cities across this country and the decline is primarily directly related to the lack of funding to support such activity.”

Richard Johns
Executive Director
Quill and Scroll Society
School of Mass Communication
University of Iowa


“Unfortunately I don't believe students understand or appreciate the First Amendment. Perhaps this is the case because they have not really experienced it. Too often in schools where they should be learning about their rights and responsibilities through action,  they merely read about these in textbooks. Nothing makes these more real than having to wrestle with the consequences of standing up for what you believe -- and students aren't offered that opportunity very often or challenged to take a risk on their own.”

“The First Amendment is at the very basis of our democracy. Being able to question authority and have a voice in how government runs is positively essential. Citizens who don't appreciate that won't even realize when their freedoms are eroding. Students who learn to blindly accept situations they really COULD and SHOULD change will not be the voting, thinking citizens we need in our country.”

“Many schools are doing everything they can to discourage student media. Maybe this is deliberate and maybe it's just the byproduct of an educational system bent of tests and "accountability" but not necessarily on learning.”

Candace Perkins Bowen
School of Journalism and Mass Communication
Kent State University


“In order to begin participating as informed, active citizens, students must understand the full scope of the First Amendment and see the ramifications of its neglect/abuse. I think the number of students (and probably teachers too) who could list all of the rights afforded by the First Amendment is probably frightening.”

Ann Akers
Associate Director
National Scholastic Media Association
2221 University Ave. SE, Suite 121
Minneapolis, Minn. 55414


“Schools are not teaching the principles of the First Amendment broadly enough.  That’s in part because civics education has all but disappeared.  It’s odd that we’re in the second great era of immigration to this country and these groups are not being exposed to the basics of our constitution and democratic society.”

Richard Lee Colvin                                                 
Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media
Columbia University


“I find students are really not very informed.  They have a very narrow view of what the First Amendment is, perhaps. Why I think that is because in many cases they have not enjoyed First Amendment rights yet in their lives. And it’s very hard for them to understand what the First Amendment is about when they haven’t been given that freedom yet. Schools don’t encourage and nurture freethinking and free expression.”

Marilyn Weaver
Department of Journalism
Ball State University
Muncie, Indiana 


"I think that (student) appreciation varies and it often depends on how liberal or conservative the student is to begin with. I think it also depends on the individual's background. For example, the father of one of our newspaper staffers is a professional journalist. When our paper ran into censorship problems last year, that student was far more incensed by the situation than other kids and I think that was because of his familiarity with the press and press rights. I also think that this depends on how much freedom, in general, a school gives its students. I've taught in schools where rules are enforced pretty thoroughly and consistently and kids know they have to follow the letter of the law. Kids in those schools tend to be more conforming than kids going to schools where they're given more latitude."

"What kind of citizens do we want in 10 or 20 or 30 years? Do we want citizens that will blindly accept whatever the government tells them, or do we want a citizenry that expects the government to operate openly and transparently? I taught U.S. History as well as journalism at my previous school and I always found it interesting to teach the government and the Constutitution in one class and talk about all the protections in the Bill of Rights and then go to my newspaper room at the other end of the school and try to advise editors and reporters who were running into roadblocks trying to report important stories. Why don't we put into practice what we're teaching the kids in our government and history classes?”

“Probably the biggest obstacle is that people don't understand the student press. We're not that much different from the daily newspaper in that we're trying to cover our community which happens to be a school. We're not a public relations agency; we're a newspaper and that means covering the good, the bad and everything in between. Of course, this coverage should be fair and without bias.”

Barbara Thill
Publications Adviser/Journalism Teacher
Chicago, Illinois


“We don’t teach the First Amendment as well as it should be taught.  We don’t raise consciousness enough about how easy our rights can be eroded. Overall, we’re doing a very bad job in public schools in engaging students about their rights”

“The First Amendment is the cornerstone of our democratic society.  Unfortunately young people don’t live it enough.  It becomes like the granite monument in the park that we never visit.”

Sandy Woodcock
Newspaper Association of America Foundation
Vienna, Va.




This web site is produced by J-IDEAS
  J-IDEAS is funded in part by the John S. and James 
L. Knight Foundation's
High School Initiative
and Ball State University.
Department ofJournalism
Ball State University, Muncie, Ind. 47306 (765) 285-8923
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