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Monday, September 17, 2018

Constitution Day and Citizenship Day

image credit: lauruscollege.edu

Today is Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, and “the act mandates that all publicly funded educational institutions, and all federal agencies, provide educational programming on the history of the American Constitution on that day.” Er, one day out of the year? Nevertheless, Salena Zito reports some encouraging news:

"We must not be afraid to be free," Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black famously said in a dissent defending free expression. That appeal is germane today, especially on college campuses, professor Daniel Cullen argues.

Cullen, a professor of political science at Rhodes College, is working to engage liberal arts college students on the critical importance of the First Amendment and free speech. It's part of a program at 30 colleges and universities across the country [which] will be marking Constitution Day on September 17, the 231st anniversary of its signing.

“It is a critical moment in American society and culture to deeply reflect First Amendment traditions as they relate to the Constitution,” said Cullen of the initiative sponsored by the Jack Miller Center.
. . .
“There was a survey recently done by the Knight Foundation that found a majority of American college students today either believe incorrectly that the First Amendment prohibits hate speech, or if it doesn't, then it ought to,” he says.

Simply put, it is an entire generation forgetting that one of the proudest achievements of American democracy is that we agree to tolerate the speech we hate.

“Nevertheless it's that proposition that a majority of college students no longer accept. They don't think it's something to be proud of. They think it's an error so the question is, ‘Why?’ And I think the best answer is that they, especially the iGen generation have become highly sensitized to the harm that speech can do and the offensiveness that often goes along with speech,” he said.
. . .
Yet Cullen remains hopeful, “What we do is we try and separate truth from falsehood and truth from error, and students remain naturally intellectually curious. They want to hear the arguments for important moral viewpoints, even arguments for viewpoints that strike them as fundamentally wrong.”

Read the rest here.
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