New generation blasé about old freedomsBy Susan Llewelyn Leach | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
Quick quiz. Can you name the five freedoms of the First Amendment? If you're stumped, you're in good company - 99 percent of American adults can't either.
That lack of familiarity with one of the cornerstones of American democracy has now found its mirror in a recent study of high school students. The largest survey to date of more than 112,000 students in ninth through 12th grades reveals basic misconceptions and a disheartening lack of interest in what it means, what it protects, and why it matters.
For instance, 75 percent of students think flag burning is against the law (it's not); and 49 percent say the government can legally restrict indecent material on the Internet (it can't). Add to that the students' surprisingly restrictive view of First Amendment freedoms - more than one third think the Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees; and only 51 percent think newspapers should be allowed to publish stories without government approval - and the land of the free starts to sound like another country.
Although educators and rights advocates say the results are alarming, few seem surprised.