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Want to Learn about Free Speech?

Updated: Apr 2

Free speech for me, but not for thee.

That is how Nat Hentoff once described what many (most?) people think about free speech – they like free speech if they agree with the message, but don’t like it if they disagree. This is nothing new in American history – there have been repeated efforts by governments to shut down speech as well as private individuals who react violently to speech they don’t like.

We see the same thing happening today. Whether it is liberal students shutting down a talk by Charles Murray or President Donald Trump musing that he should take Saturday Night Live to court for making fun of him, there are numerous examples of people who want to use private or government force to stop speech they don’t like.

That is why it is nice to see Eugene Volokh, a law professor at UCLA who specializes in free speech issues, debut a video series about free speech law. His first video recently came out, entitled, “7 Things You Should Know about Free Speech in Schools.” He plans on producing a 10-part series that discusses different aspects of the First Amendment.

The video is less than 4 minutes long but it packs a lot of information into this brief time frame. Specifically, the video covers these 7 aspects of free speech law as it pertains to schools:

  1. Political and religious speech is mostly protected

  2. Disruptive speech is not protected

  3. Vulgar or sexual speech is not protected

  4. Praising drugs is not protected

  5. Official school newspapers are the school’s own speech

  6. These rules only apply to public schools

  7. Some states (like California) protect students’ rights more strictly

Since it deals with schools, I watched the video with my 10-year-old daughter. She was very interested in what it had to say, and we had a good conversation afterwards about protest in schools. We’ll see if I receive a call from her principal within the next few days about a peaceful (and totally legal) protest she may be planning.

I certainly recommend this video for anyone concerned about free speech in this country. As people across the political spectrum — from students up to the president of the United States — demonstrate on a daily basis, the lack of understanding about this subject is disturbing. Professor Volokh’s attempt to provide a little more insight into the First Amendment’s protections will provide a great service to the country.

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