Tag Archives: Political Campaigns

How does the first amendment protect what teachers say in the classroom?

Each day millions of parents send their children to schools where teachers are ignorant, or disobedient, to the restrictions of what and how they can teach in the classroom. Topics such as religion, politics, and other controversial issues are being portrayed unequally, infringing upon student’s right to a fair view on the world around them.

Students have a wide range of religious freedom protected by the First Amendment in the classroom, such as forming religious based groups, praying in the classroom if not distracting, and incorporating their beliefs into school assignments. But, teachers have many more restrictions than students. In public school, teachers and school districts are required by the First Amendment to neither promote nor inhibit religion. Fairness is demonstrated when the curriculum includes academic study about religion when the content is tied to academic objectives to ensure a rounded education. Although court systems are not black and white, and many cases fall in a gray area, teachers should be educated on their overall limitations.

Because classrooms are not considered public forums, teachers must work within school limitations in their approach to sensitive topics, careful not to take sides on political controversies. Unfortunately this has not been the case especially during the recent election. The Washington Post published an article from October 14th, 2016 glorifying “Teachers of the Year” who are publicly going against their obligation to remain neutral involving political topics in the classroom. Instead of being punished for their violation of what teachers can and cannot do inside the classroom, their “moral imperative” to spread their opinions to their students was praised. Classrooms in my own school have shown evident bias towards political candidates, and teachers have encouraged students with the same views to act disrespectfully towards opinions of opposite views. If a small school in Wisconsin has such a large divide and lack of respectful discussion for students with a range of diverse beliefs, what other inequities are taking place nationwide, and what will we do about it?

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The Ethics of Freedom of Speech and Political Campaigns

In a republic,  it is important for one to voice their opinion, because we are the ones who elect officials to represent us. If you watch TV or listen to the radio during election season, the channels are flooded with political advertisements. On average in one day on one channel you will see 62 advertisements regarding the political election. “In some of these (swing) states, there’s literally going to be no available advertising space left on television,” said Kip Cassino, Executive Vice President at a market research company Borrell Associates. In the last election, each candidate spent over two billion dollars on the election, with about half of that being spent on commercials. Symbolic speech is one expressing their idea or emotion without words. In this case it is donating money towards campaigns versus using words.  Does money equal speech?  Should the government limit the amount of money an individual or corporation can donate to a political candidate?

As we dive deeper into the subject of political elections and commercials, it is important to understand both sides of the argument. An individual or corporation can donate to a political campaign or PAC to assist with the heavy costs. With the high costs of an election, it is important for individuals or corporations to voice their opinion. By donating money you are simply just supporting your preferred candidate. In the past presidential election, Hillary Clinton had $799.5 million donated to her campaign VS Donald Trump had $639.1 million. In the 2010 Citizens United decision, the court struck down the idea of limiting the money spent on political advertisements. They believe an individual can spend their money on advertisements if they so choose. On the other side during the during the 1981 case of Buckley VS Valeo case, one believed that they should limit the amount of money spent on a political campaign. As you can see in the statistics about the amount of money spent on campaigns, it does not determine the winner of the election. The republican candidate, Donald Trump, won with less money donated to his campaign. People are voicing their opinion with money that has no impact on the results. Money does not equal speech.

All in all, money is just simple donations to support your preferred candidate. The last presidential election proves the amount of money spent on a campaign does not voice who is going to win the election. Is money speech? The answer can be undecided, but next time you think about donating money towards a political campaign think about the impact it will have on the election and what your money is going towards. Do commercials really have an impact on your opinion?