I am a high school journalism teacher. I believe in student First Amendment rights.
I believe that students have the right to give viewpoints, cover controversial issues, and share their beliefs in a school publication. I believe that students will only truly learn about journalism if they are afforded the same rights as adult journalists. I believe that high school publications are student publications and that the content should be determined by students and not be a school’s public relations tool.
Student journalists have the right to discuss unpopular subjects and I think they have the right to cover issues that are truly relevant to teens even if the adults in the community aren’t always comfortable with these topics.
High school journalism students gain real world experience and preparation for life outside of high school. What other classes in high school require students to interview, research, write, ask tough questions, offer solutions, manage the budget, fundraise, set and meet deadlines, design, organize, brainstorm, and collaborate everyday? Journalism does. Jack Dvorok from Indiana University has done many studies that show that all these things that high school journalists do everyday, prepare them for college and the workforce. Time management and critical thinking are just two things journalism students gain from working on a school publication. The studies show they perform better in college, better on SATs, and better on AP English exams.
So journalism gives these kids all kinds of experience and skills, but yet journalism is one of the only classes in high school that requires students to raise money just to be able to meet the class objective and that often puts students in the position to have to fight for their right to truly learn about journalism. As a student journalist, I went through the same things.
Despite this, I’m going to keep on believing in the rights of high school journalists and hope that some day administrators everywhere will see the value of a free student press. And yes, students will be critical and sometimes we don’t agree with their opinions, but this is just the way it is in the real world. Isn’t that what high school is supposed to be preparing these kids for?
I truly believe in students. And although we hear a lot of negativity about teenagers, many of my students will prove these comments wrong. In the past four years, my students have written about tough issues like alcohol abuse and teenage pregnancy, but sadly the article that upset the administration and landed our newspaper staff in a censorship debate was about tolerance. I am proud of my journalism students for being willing to take chances and give their opinions even when some adults don’t agree with them. Their drive and dedication proves to me that the headaches I go through and the times I get the forboding message to go to the principal’s office are worth it.
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