For Granted

Christa - Mulvane, Kansas
Entered on February 29, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
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I believe in freedom-not just freedom of speech, but freedom of thought, of protest, and of self-expression.

The more I learn, the more I’m exposed to history, literature, even current events in the local paper, the more I realize the importance of freedom. This belief is so powerful that I even saw it worthy to scrap my former essay, which was agonizingly close to completion, in order to write about this.

Recently, this issue has been cropping up a lot in my life, which is the reason for my last-minute change of mind. It seems as if, for the past week, a different teacher every day has said something to remind me of the freedoms I have, how I daily take them for granted. Sometimes I think they do it on purpose. They must be collaborating. In my Theory of Knowledge course, the teacher, who more often instructs history classes, pointed out that it is a trend in history for dictatorships to target the intellectuals first. The Nazis, the Khmer Rouge, even the society of North Korea today all imposed heavy censorship on their citizens. The inspiration for this rant, however, sprouted from the mention of a law up for proposal during my English class. If this law were passed, the Board of Education would have to approve all books before they could be taught in our public schools. The thought made me shudder; I live in Kansas, the state famous nationwide for the controversy surrounding whether or not evolution should allowed in the science curriculum. I am a student of the International Baccalaureate program; I’m required to read certain plays and novels, many of which would easily be considered unsuitable by our Board of Education, in order to receive my diploma. Without the freedom to openly discuss these texts in class, my International Baccalaureate diploma is gone. Not that all Kansans are conservative, but I know my home state and that the likelihood of many of the books currently in the IB English curriculum remaining there for long would be slim if this law were to take effect.

In my biology class, Darwin’s theory of evolution as well as creationist theories are part of the curriculum for the origins of life. Although my classmates are as diverse in religion (or lack thereof) as fish in an aquarium, we are able to discuss these theories objectively. There are no arguments; we seek understanding and knowledge, not a rebuttal.

Every time I hear of a society in which the citizens are denied these freedoms, the importance of freedom is made clearer to me. I feel unbelievably lucky to be born into a country and era where I can openly share ideas, never having fear of being punished for my thoughts. This is what I believe in.