Should We Lift Student Censorship to Encourage Growth?

As a full-time education consultant, Allison Zmuda works with educators to grow ideas on how to make learning for students challenging, possible and worthy of the attempt. Over the past 19 years, Zmuda has shared curricular, assessment, and instructional ideas, shown illustrative examples, and offered practical strategies of how to get started.

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I came across this blog post on censorship within school newspapers and thought it would be appropriate to respond to the post with a student voice in the mix.

I reached out to high school English teacher Jason Augustowski to see if some of his student’s were interested. Jason Augustowski has been influential in empowering student voice through the creation of the group, #bowtieboys, where students offer commentary on what works for them, what doesn’t work, and imagining what could be.

My Take On Student Censorship

As we are in a world where “alternative facts” are prevalent and the circulation of fake stories is common, there is increased pressure about having schools pay more attention to investigation and examination of sources so we can grow a more informed citizenry. This, in fact, is not only a noble goal, but is one that library media specialists, journalism teachers, and others who have been championing for decades.

I was struck by a comment Diana Hadley (director of the Indiana High School Press Association) made in the article:

“If students can’t write about challenging topics, they don’t get the full experience of being a student journalist. They’re not tested to present information in a responsible way because they’re not given the freedom to be responsible. Censorship limits engagement within the school community. If students are doing a really good job of covering events and issues that their readers care about, there will be interaction that makes the school better.”

Paying attention to both journalists and readers to engage in significant issues worthy of investigation, discourse, and action can only happen when students are entrusted to behave as engaged citizens. Student journalists and readers learn by doing — making discernments about topics that are worthy of deep exploration, validity of sources, and ideas that need to be put out there in the light of day with the hopes of growing the health of the community.

Christian’s Take:

Christian Sporre is a 14 year old freshmen at Riverside High School. His mission is to incorporate technology in the classroom so teachers and students can work more efficiently with the tools of the future. Find him on Twitter @Csporre

I am fortunate enough to go to a school where I can openly share my thoughts and ideas. The same goes for the other kids at my school, I learn a lot from what other people think. I am against censoring student writings because letting them dump all of their thoughts and sharing them can help many students in addition to the writer.

The moment I started to read the first paragraph it got me thinking, isn’t being able to deal with conflict a really important aspect in life? What I mean by that is if a writers writes something that might upset the reader, shouldn’t the writer and the reader both learn how to deal with this conflict? Instead of being able to learn from conflict it looks like some administrators at Kirkwood high school want to avoid that even though you must deal with conflict every day of your life. I really liked the solution principal Johnson from Chantilly high school had. She lets students speak their mind and if a reader has a problem with the writing she will have student editors meet with the readers so they can talk about it and maybe learn something from each other. This is awesome because it can teach students to deal with common conflicts.

Another big reason I think censoring students writing is bad is because their writing can be very influential. Being able to know how a teenager feels about things is very hard to do but writing is a window that lets you see their emotions. Take the bow tie boys for example. We are a very influential group because its not often teachers get to know what students actually think about what is going on in the class room. The responses we give to certain issues can help teachers improve their classroom which improves students learning. We couldn’t do that if the school refrained us from speaking our mind.

Censoring things like abuse and drug topics can negatively effect students. We are told if we have any problems associated with these things tell an adult, but that can be extremely hard for students to do. Disappointment, shame, embarrassment are just some of the emotions that come into play when telling an adult about a serious problem. If these students could only read these articles on abuse and drugs fellow classmates have written, they might be able to find a solution easier because they can relate with the writer. That can make a huge impact on someone’s life

Students should be able to speak their mind, its a great way to let loose. If students have this mentality that nothing they write will have any effect because nobody is seeing it then they will stop caring. Everyone benefits if everyone can express themselves. We can learn from others mistakes before we make them. Not everyone will agree with what you have to say and that’s fine. If you talk about the conflict everyone can learn something. Let students share their thoughts and ideas because at the end of the day, one paper can go a long way.

Bryce’s Take

Bryce Bernier is a 14 year old freshmen at Riverside High School. He has a passion for lacrosse and football and seeks to help athletes with time management in high school. Find him on Twitter at @bryce_bernier22

The article on how a high school lets their students dictate and control 100% of the school news was very interesting from a student standpoint.  Students are usually never allowed to have full control of their school’s news sources with complete student voice. The schools say the students are practicing their first amendment by having their full voice being heard by everyone through the school announcements, newsletter, and newspaper, but is absolute student governing of these news sources for the school to happen without a little say from the school’s staff?

With letting students write their own news sources, that can have consequences on the entire school if the student is bias towards a hot topic discussion in the U.S. or state. This can cause angerment of the students and reflection of the school if that student has a inappropriate or unethical news source written up by themselves only, with no green light from a faculty member of the school.  Many will agree it is teaching these students real work and life skills after high school. Although if no student news is monitored by the school faculty, then there is only a matter of time before a school will have an issue in the students news service for the entire school.

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