The Importance of Freedom of Speech in Our Everyday Lives
IMAGE VIA FOUNDATION FOR EDUCATIONAL FREEDOM
As a high school student attending a conservative Catholic all-girls school in the Bay Area, I’ve often been the minority- both in ethnicity and political values. My attempts to promote racial solidarity within the community by encouraging action were widely ignored- sometimes even lambasted as “a liberal agenda.” There has been such a clear divide within my school concerning recent issues that it’s been incredibly difficult to form a coherent goal of increasing acceptance, especially when each side seems to be battling the other in terms of perspective. Being an anchor for the “Current News” segment of my school’s weekly broadcast, I understood this, as much as I understood that it wasn’t so much about justifying my own stance as it was about featuring the stances of others. What I didn’t realize was that there would be some who didn’t share that view.
It was shortly after the airing of the final “Current News” segment of the school’s weekly broadcast that I received a response from the school’s administration. The previous segment had been centered on the Muslim immigration ban, and I had provided a few ways for the broader community to take action in the public policy realm. Immediately, it was categorized as being too “liberal” and “democratic.” According to one of the members of the administration, speaking out about the ban was only another method of furthering the view that Trump was not a suitable president for the United States. Despite the fact that the segment had never explicitly stated a perspective on the issue, the school had automatically linked it to the minority position. The following segments involving current issues within the government- especially in relation to Trump- were rejected, specifically because the administration was under the opinion that providing any information about the president was going to cater to a certain standpoint. Instead, I was told to provide religious references for the segments in order to perpetuate the mission of a “Catholic school.”
I was devastated, especially when the purpose of the segment had to educate the public about current events and allow them to interpret the news for themselves. It was never about, and would never be about advancing any sort of political agenda. Understandably, many of my liberal friends were shocked, even angry. It was a sharp transition from news like the Women’s March and the Standing Rock movement to weekly quotes from Pope Francis. While I acknowledged and accepted the fact that it was not my place to dictate the content of the school report, I was also dissatisfied. I had spent so much time researching and writing each aspect of the weekly segment, it being labeled as “politically discriminatory” felt like my voice was being suppressed. My attempts to combat this by forming a United Nations club for my peers with like-minded interests was also declined, with them telling me that the organization would “not benefit the campus” and that they didn’t have “the resources for something like that” (This was in spite of the annual tuition, which as of 2016-2017, amounts to approximately 20K per year).
Trump’s press conference- in which he banned media outlets such as the New York Times, BBC, and the Huffington Post- has only served to further illustrate the importance of journalism in modern-day America. As a student journalist myself, I firmly believe in the freedom to inform and educate others about what is happening in the world. This is essential to our nation’s progress; only by learning about society and our individual place in it can we utilize our words to effect change. In my eyes, it is a form of oppression to prevent the freedom of speaking out about the issues one cares about. And in my eyes, journalism plays a vital role in that advocacy. Whether one votes Democratic or Republican, liberal or conservative, it’s essential that we use our voices in today’s political climate, whatever the cost.