2006.09.20: September 20, 2006: Headlines: Figures: COS - Venezuela: Journalism: Publishing: Tallahassee Democrat: Alberto Ibarguen writes: Students are learning 'Five Freedoms'

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Venezuela: Special Report: Miami Herald Publisher and Venezuela RPCV Alberto Ibargüen: February 9, 2005: Index: PCOL Exclusive: RPCV Alberto Ibargüen (Venezuela) : 2006.09.20: September 20, 2006: Headlines: Figures: COS - Venezuela: Journalism: Publishing: Tallahassee Democrat: Alberto Ibarguen writes: Students are learning 'Five Freedoms'

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Alberto Ibarguen writes: Students are learning 'Five Freedoms'

Alberto Ibarguen writes: Students are learning 'Five Freedoms'

"Freedom is like a muscle in your body. If you don't use it, it gets weak; but if you exercise it, it gets stronger. Freedom House, a human-rights organization in Washington, estimates that only 17 percent of the world's people enjoy real freedom of speech and of the press. We are lucky to be among that small number. Let's stay that way by making sure that we - and our kids - understand and use those freedoms." Alberto Ibarguen was publisher of the Miami Herald and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Venezuela in the 1960's.

Alberto Ibarguen writes: Students are learning 'Five Freedoms'

Students are learning 'Five Freedoms'

By Alberto Ibarguen

At the time of their awards, winners of the Oscars, Heisman and Pulitzers get headlines. But a few years later, most of us can't name even a handful of them. Yet almost any of us can name the teachers who really mattered to us, the ones who made a difference in our lives, the ones who lit the fire for learning and pushed us to think for ourselves.

In looking over the results of a recent survey on what America's high-school students think about their freedoms, I'm reminded of the influence of teachers. Along with parents, they are the ones who will instill in every generation the respect and appreciation for the “Five Freedoms” guaranteed in the First Amendment: freedom to worship as you believe and without a religion endorsed by the government, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and freedom to ask government to meet the people's needs.

Student responses to our 2006 survey aren't easy to fit into neat categories. Their attitudes are as hard to characterize as teenagers themselves. Forty-five percent of American high-school students think the First Amendment “goes too far in the rights it guarantees,” yet a substantial majority also believe offensive song lyrics shouldn't be censored. They overwhelmingly believe that burning the American flag as a political statement should not be allowed but also that newspapers should not be censored by government, especially high-school newspapers by school authorities.

But the best news out of our recent survey is that, compared with our initial survey of two years ago, high-school students today are more likely to take classes that teach and discuss First Amendment freedoms. And more of them are in classes where teachers require students to read a newspaper or watch television news.

The initial “Future of the First Amendment” survey of more than 100,000 students, 8,000 teachers and 500 administrators found that government censorship of news and the Internet had high approval ratings. Teachers, for their part, were high on censoring music lyrics, though they largely disapproved of government censorship of news. In that survey, three-fourths of the students either didn't know or didn't care about their guaranteed freedoms.

That grabbed a lot of headlines and comments, ranging from newspaper editorials to Dear Abby, and from Rush Limbaugh to the television show "Boston Legal."

When we checked in again with students and teachers this year, we were heartened to find improvement in students' education and knowledge. That's good news, because the ability to discuss many points of view is at the heart of the First Amendment. The framers of the Constitution had it right: There is no better way to create informed citizens than to have a healthy debate that includes many points of view so that people can act in their own, enlightened self-interest. That was true in 1776, and it's true today in our world of so many sources of information.

Our new survey shows evidence that both students and teachers are starting to re-examine their fundamental freedoms. I hope so, since we live in times when our phone calls and Internet records may not be as protected as we thought, and when our access to basic information is being pulled back from public view.

If we want America's next generation to not take our Five Freedoms for granted, teachers are the answer. And there's help available. Any number of Web sites provide teachers, administrators, students, parents and government officials with tips, lesson plans and ideas for discussing and underÂstanding the Constitution.

Freedom is like a muscle in your body. If you don't use it, it gets weak; but if you exercise it, it gets stronger. Freedom House, a human-rights organization in Washington, estimates that only 17 percent of the world's people enjoy real freedom of speech and of the press. We are lucky to be among that small number. Let's stay that way by making sure that we - and our kids - understand and use those freedoms.

Alberto Ibarguen is president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. For more on the Knight survey, go to http://firstamendmentfuture.org.

When this story was posted in September 2006, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Tallahassee Democrat

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