From George Washington—“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter”—to Thomas Jefferson—“free speech cannot be limited without being lost”—to F.D.R—“Freedom of conscience, of education, of speech, of assembly are among the very fundamentals of democracy and all of them would be nullified should freedom of the press ever be successfully challenged,” America’s great leaders have understood the importance of our first Amendment freedoms. Labor leader Samuel Gompers conveyed the intentions of the founders as follows: “the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press have not been granted to the people in order that they may say the things which please, and which are based upon accepted thought, but the right to say the things which displease, the right to say the things which may convey the new and yet unexpected thoughts, the right to say things, even though they do a wrong.” All emphasis mine.
I realize that the First Amendment applies less to private school students than to public school students than to town criers. And I realize that freedom of the press, at least as defined by the Constitution, applies to governments not private school administrations. But, the ideals promoted by the founding fathers, and the reasoning behind their belief in the importance of fair and unbiased journalism, are equally relevant when it comes to publications on the Cathedral Close.
I would never have believed, after four years on the Close, that we would stoop to the low of contemporary society—that our discourse, though it remains largely civil, would lose its across-the-aisle-reach. Few institutions on this Close have remained insulated from the violent disagreement and same-viewpoint bubbling that define this era, and the institutions most insulated—the Government Club, The Discus—have come under repeated attack for being “harmful.” Even the mighty STA News is falling prey to faculty censorship of editorial pieces. The mere comparison of Donald Trump to fascist leaders throughout history is, somehow, unworthy of discussion for fear it may offend.
The notion that we should censor our history, our opinions, and our reality to protect youth is not merely offensive. It is downright dangerous.
The Exchanged, to whom I write, is perhaps most characteristic of the demise of that most fundamental of American values: freedom of speech, for whose sake immigrants fled Germany and Guatemala and Vietnam. Disagreement and potential to offend or even to anger—these are not reasons to censor. In fact, they are intrinsic to the free exchange of ideas, through which truth and justice and morality will win out—but only as long as the exchange remains uncensored. Pun intended. The Women’s Suffrage Movement and the Civil Rights Movement could never have fully triumphed without the ability to voice their dissenting beliefs, even though those beliefs were dissenting. This racism which has appeared in comments on Exchanged articles, and in articles themselves—since censored by The Exchanged—does not hold value resembling that of the Suffragists’ views? It does, however, deserve entirely the same opportunity to be discussed, debated, and ultimately—hopefully—rejected.
So here’s to a hopefully brighter future, where we no longer malign the freedoms which have brought us to this present point,
Yours Truly, Parzival