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FOI Week -- Tuesday Report

By Butler Cain, Alabama Public Radio

FOI Week -- Tuesday Report

Tuscaloosa, AL – A recent national study indicates high school students -- and Americans in general -- know very little about the First Amendment. In part two of his series on Freedom of Information issues in Alabama, Butler Cain reports the survey suggests educators are failing to give students a proper appreciation of the amendment.

"The Future of the First Amendment" survey took two years to complete and cost one million dollars. More than 100 thousand high school students, eight thousand teachers and 500 administrators and principals across the country participated. Gene Policinski, executive director of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, says the First Amendment's five freedoms are the most basic parts of American democracy. But, the survey suggests little is known about them.

"I would say that the main question posed to me when I saw the results was very simple: How can our society expect its adult citizens to fully honor and respect, protect and utilize those five freedoms if they don't know what they are?"

The freedoms are religion, speech, press, assembly, and the right to petition the government. But only one in 100 adults can name all five, and survey results suggest the First Amendment should be studied in high school. It found nearly three-fourths of high school students either do not know how they feel about the First Amendment or admit they take it for granted. More than a third think the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation commissioned the study. Foundation President and C-E-O Hodding Carter the Third says ignorance about the basics of American society is a danger to the nation's future.

For the Alabama Report, I'm Butler Cain.

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