Part of what makes America great is our love for free speech. Many of our nation’s youth, however, feel that opposing beliefs should not be protected under U.S. law but should instead be met with violence, according to a recent study. As a 20-year-old collegegoer, I highly disagree with the folly and hypersensitivity of many millennials, and I welcome controversial language for the expansion of intellect.
A survey conducted by the Brookings Institute, a century-old nonprofit research organization, concluded that a surprisingly large number of university students believe it is acceptable to shut down expression they deem distasteful through any means, including violence. Participants also displayed vital ignorance of the First Amendment, indicating lapses in the American education system. Participants’ political affiliation did, however, account for variation.
The assessed Republicans were much more likely to interpret diverse beliefs from others as educational rather than offensive or oppressive, in contrast to the oversensitive stances from Democratic colleagues.
Perhaps surprisingly, both political groups overwhelmingly agreed that organizations are “legally required” by the First Amendment to ensure that events include not only provocative orators “but also a speaker who presents an opposing view,” displaying critical misunderstandings of the U.S. Constitution. Furthermore, 20% of both political groups responded that violence is an acceptable means of protest towards controversial campus speakers. Hypersensitive university brats beware, learning to handle offensive commentary is vital for success in the real world.
As part of the millennial generation, I must admit to finding these statistics profoundly disturbing and concerning for our country’s future. The study is quite unsurprising, however. Campuses across the country have recently displayed intolerance towards free thought and expression. Most recently, professors at U.C. Berkeley canceled classes, for which many pay thousands to attend for an “education,” to enable students to protest the conservative presenters attending the college’s Free Speech Week event, according to Liberty Nation’s Jeff Charles.
A Political Future
The findings from researchers at the Brookings Institute may present insight into the potential future political atmosphere in the U.S. As millennials grow into positions of power, it is vital that they comprehend the importance of the First Amendment and its intellectual implications. Sharing ideas, regardless of how objectionable or outright factually incorrect, is essential for progress, so long that they do not spur violence or threats.
Many significant discoveries have begun with a provocative question. Without openness to contrasting viewpoints, innovative achievements become bleak and harmful stereotypes may remain. Also, if pupils wish to promote federal censorship of commentary they consider unpleasant, what leads them to believe the government will not abuse such power to eventually silence opinions of their own, reminiscent of Orwell’s 1984?
Thankfully, there still are many college goers devoted to maintaining their constitutional rights and promoting critical thought. As a student at the University of Central Florida, I was proud to see my colleagues from the campus club Young Americans for Liberty recently hold their Free Speech Ball event during which hundreds gathered to cherish and promote First Amendment rights, including for those with opposing political affiliations.
Such demonstrations suggest that although numerous youth are painfully confused and misinformed regarding the fortune our great nation has provided, there is a light of assurance that many still have a devotion and passion for liberty.
Insert picture courtesy of Young Americans for Liberty at UCF