Curriculum

What Teenagers Think About the First Amendment

By Megan Ruge — November 25, 2019 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Overall, high school students show more support for the First Amendment today than they did 15 years ago—but girls and students of color are more likely than boys and white students to say the amendment “goes too far in the rights it guarantees.”

That comes from a report published last week by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation that looks at trends from seven surveys administered to high school students between 2004 and 2018. More than 100,000 high school students responded to the first survey in 2004, and subsequent surveys involved about 10,000 students each.

According to the most recent survey, from 2018, 26 percent of students agreed that “the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees"—down from 45 percent who said the same in 2006.

While most students still favorthe First Amendment’s rights and guarantees, the new report points to a growing divide on the topic between boys and white students in one direction and girls and students of color in the other. The 2018 report, for example, shows that agreement with the statement that the First Amendment “goes too far” stood at 40 percent among black non-Hispanic students, 35 percent among white Hispanic students, 33 percent of Asian students, and 22 percent of white students.

“It is pretty worrying that there is starting to be a greater divergence along the lines of race and along the lines of gender,” said John Wihbey, a co-author of the newest report. “And it’s particularly worrying in light of our current political climate where so many questions around race and gender are being worked out.”

The race-related differences in support span all the study years, and the differences by gender started in 2011.

The authors also found a significant correlation between support for the First Amendment and course work. Wihbey said that, though it’s not an even pattern, students who said they had some sort of classroom engagement with the First Amendment are more likely to be supportive of specific First Amendment rights.

“You would expect, and it would stand to reason that, the more classroom education programing you do around the Constitution, what the rights mean, how they’ve played out in practice, whether it’s through a civics curriculum or a history class, that students would be more informed, probably more likely to support the basic tenets of the First Amendment,” Wihbey said.

Of the students who took the 2018 survey, 64 percent had taken a class that dealt with the First Amendment.

The researchers also noticed that students on average tend to be more supportive of holding websites accountable for offensive content than they are of schools disciplining students for doing much the same thing on social media.

But the 2018 survey shows that similar proportions of students favor assigning blame to both schools and websites. Twenty-six percent of students said they “strongly agree” or “mildly agree” that websites should be disciplined for posting offensive content and 28 percent said that they either “strongly agree” or “mildly agree” students should be disciplined by schools. Overall, the newest report said that 47 percent of students separately agree that social media companies “should be responsible for limiting hate speech on their platforms.”

“I guess it’s possible to be a very big supporter of the First Amendment but think that there are certain types of things that are going on online that maybe we should address...through norms and through policies by the companies themselves,” Wihbey said.

Images: The Knight Foundation

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Curriculum He Taught About White Privilege and Got Fired. Now He's Fighting to Get His Job Back
Matthew Hawn is an early casualty in this year's fight over how teachers can discuss with students America's struggle with racism.
13 min read
Social studies teacher Matthew Hawn is accused of insubordination and repeated unprofessional conduct for sharing Kyla Jenèe Lacey's, 'White Privilege', poem with his Contemporary Issues class. Hawn sits on his couch inside his home on August 17, 2021.
Matthew Hawn is accused of insubordination and repeated unprofessional conduct for lessons and materials he used to teach about racism and white privilege in his Contemporary Issues class at Sullivan Central High School in Blountville, Tenn.<br/>
Caitlin Penna for Education Week
Curriculum What's the Best Way to Address Unfinished Learning? It's Not Remediation, Study Says
A new study suggests acceleration may be a promising strategy for addressing unfinished learning in math after a pandemic year.
5 min read
Female high school student running on the stairs leads to an opportunity to success
CreativaImages/iStock/Getty Images Plus
Curriculum School Halts Use of Fictional Book in Which Officer Kills a Black Child
Fifth graders in at least one Broward County school were assigned to read a book that critics say casts police officers as racist liars.
Rafael Olmeda, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
5 min read
Broward County School Board member Lori Alhadeff listens during a meeting of the Broward County School Board, Tuesday, March 5, 2019, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Broward County School Board member Lori Alhadeff listens during a meeting of the Broward County School Board in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Alhadeff told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that she does not feel like the book "Ghost Boys" is appropriate for 5th graders.
Lynne Sladky/AP
Curriculum Opinion Introducing Primary Sources to Students
Five educators share strategies for introducing primary sources to students, including English-language learners.
12 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty