Posted in FirstAmendment

How Much Free Speech is Too Much

Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…

The constitutional guarantee to free speech is in the news. On university campuses across the country protestors are lining up to do battle against university sponsored, or university-based group sponsored speakers. Does a speaker have the right to be heard no matter what he or she espouses? The following is a partial list (which I compiled by searching the internet for who has been prevented from speaking at universities) of people who have been “disinvited” to speak at universities, disrupted in their attempt to speak, or prevented from speaking by the threat of protest.

  • anti-feminists
  • anti-muslims
  • anti-semites
  • conservatives
  • mysogynists
  • liberals
  • online celebrity “trolls”
  • police commissioners
  • policy makers
  • politicians
  • pro-Israel supporters
  • pundits
  • racists
  • speakers with violent and sexually explicit language
  • supporters of police
  • transgenders
  • trans- and homophobes

Articles have been written in favor of and against the trend…

No matter what your position on allowing offensive (and everyone in the list above is offensive to someone) speech at a university, or anywhere else, there are certain things about the First Amendment protection of free speech that should be remembered.


You can, in most situations, express your opinion about almost anything, but by doing so you open yourself up to criticism. Criticism is also protected free speech.

For example, if you don’t like what I write on this blog, you can, in the comments, dispute what I have written and tell me I’m wrong. Your comment is the consequence of my self-expression and you have the right to criticize me. (On the other hand, I also have the right to delete your comment if it violates my rules or I find it offensive. That’s the consequence of your speech in my comments. Click here to see commenting rules).


The government protects free speech. Private citizens or groups do not. If I own a venue and invite speakers to visit on occasion, I can choose who I want to invite. If I invite Bernie Sanders, but not Mitch McConnell, I have not limited the free speech of Senator McConnell. I simply haven’t invited him to my venue. He is free to find his own venue in which to speak. If I do invite Senator McConnell, and then change my mind, I might be considered an ill-mannered jerk, but I’m still within my rights, and I have still not restricted the Senator’s free speech.

When UC-Berkeley decided to postpone Ann Coulter’s speech (Coulter herself is the one who chose to cancel), they didn’t restrict her free speech, even though you might consider them jerks for changing the date of the invitation. Ms. Coulter still has the option of writing books and op-eds, speaking at rallies, talking on television, radio and podcasts. In fact, she did just that in the article linked in this paragraph. She has every right to rail against those who prevented her from speaking. But she still has freedom of speech.

When universities cancel speeches because of the threat of protest, they have the right to do so. This is not limiting the canceled speaker’s free speech. Every one of those speakers is free to find other locations to speak, or write their opinions, or find broadcasts on which to express themselves.

We can disagree with a group or university who prevents or denies someone the opportunity to speak at a particular location, however, that someone still has the option of arguing against the denial on their own.

[The preceding argument is definitely true when the university is privately owned, but does this change if the university is publicly funded like UC-Berkeley? If so, does that mean that anyone who wants to can demand to speak at a university? See the article by the ACLU, below.]


In other words, free speech, under the U.S. Constitution is not 100% guaranteed. There are restrictions and consequences. See here, here, and here for discussions of ways that free speech can be denied in the U.S. Here are a few…

1. First, we’ve already discussed…

  • You do not have a right to free speech in a forum owned by someone else. They can kick you out. They don’t have to allow you to speak.

2. Those folks who incite to riot in order to prevent someone from speaking need to be careful…

  • It’s illegal to incite others to criminal acts or to riot. In Brandenburg v. Ohio the U.S. Supreme Court set the standard for what is permissible. This includes so-called “fighting words” which would also incite violence.

3. The following description is the basis of a settled suit against the defunct Trump University.

  • You are not allowed to make false or fraudulent claims in the course of business.

4. Keep this in mind if you want to keep your job…

  • You are not guaranteed free speech in your workplace, except union organization, which is protected by law.

5. This applies to all students.

  • Students have restricted rights to free speech in school.

6. Is “knock the crap out of them” a violent threat?

  • You don’t have the right to threaten someone with violence.


The American Civil Liberties Union states that objectionable speech may not be restricted at government-financed campuses.

Academic freedom (and freedom of speech) protects the rights of a person who makes objectionable statements, but does it also protect the right of the governing body of an academic institution to change its mind? Once someone is invited is there no option but to let them speak? What about someone who is not invited? May they “invite” themselves?

Furthermore, in the case of Ann Coulter, as in many other of the disinvited speakers’ cases, the university itself didn’t invite her. She was invited by the Berkeley College Republicans, a university supported, but private organization (Note: The Berkeley College Republicans are the people who also invited Milo Yiannopoulos, who was also “disinvited” by the university).

Hate Speech on Campus

Many universities, under pressure to respond to the concerns of those who are the objects of hate, have adopted codes or policies prohibiting speech that offends any group based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.

That’s the wrong response, well-meaning or not. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects speech no matter how offensive its content. Speech codes adopted by government-financed state colleges and universities amount to government censorship, in violation of the Constitution. And the ACLU believes that all campuses should adhere to First Amendment principles because academic freedom is a bedrock of education in a free society.

The American Library Association fights censorship every day…but are they against censoring everything?

Intellectual Freedom and Censorship Q and A

What Are The Most Frequently Censored Materials?

Throughout history, books have been challenged for many reasons, including political content, sexual expression, or language offensive to some people’s racial, cultural, or ethnic background, gender or sexuality, or political or religious beliefs. Materials considered heretical, blasphemous, seditious, obscene or inappropriate for children have often been censored.

Since the dawn of recorded human expression, people have been burned at the stake, forced to drink poison, crucified, ostracized and vilified for what they wrote and believed.

Aren’t There Some Kinds Of Expression That Really Should Be Censored?

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that there are certain narrow categories of speech that are not protected by the First Amendment: obscenity, child pornography, defamation, and “fighting words,” or speech that incites immediate and imminent lawless action. The government is also allowed to enforce secrecy of some information when it is considered essential to national security, like troop movements in time of war, classified information about defense, etc.


Should objectionable speech be allowed on public campuses?

What’s the difference between objectionable speech and hate speech?

Is name calling protected speech?

What about name calling in the form of racial or ethnic slurs?

Posted in Early Childhood, Evaluations, FirstAmendment, NewOrleans, Politics, poverty, Quotes, TeacherShortage, Teaching Career

More Random Quotes – May 2016


About Those School Lunches…

OpenSecrets.Org tells us this about Lobbying

The primary goal of much of the money that flows through U.S. politics is this: Influence. Corporations and industry groups, labor unions, single-issue organizations – together, they spend billions of dollars each year to gain access to decision-makers in government, all in an attempt to influence their thinking.

Just how much did the top three industries spend on lobbying in 2015?

Total for Pharmaceuticals/Health Products: $230,693,261

Total for Insurance: $156,801,882

Total for Oil and Gas: $129,836,004

Think about those totals when you pay for your medications, your insurance premiums, and the energy needed to power your car and heat your home. How much of your dollars are going to pay for lobbyists who work against your interests?

Which sets the stage for the following simple and important quote…

From Sheila Kennedy

…poor kids don’t have lobbyists…


The Disturbing Transformation of Kindergarten

We have pushed down the curriculum and now expect kindergarteners to learn what first graders learned a generation ago — and then we blame the children for not learning and their teachers for not teaching.

From Dianemarie

It may satisfy politicians to see children perform inappropriately difficult tasks like trained circus animals. However, if we want our youngest to actually learn, we will demand the return of developmentally appropriate kindergarten.


It Takes a Policy

We are only one of three nations in the world who invest more money in schools for our wealthy children than for our poor children. We have one of the highest childhood poverty rates – nearly 25% – of any advanced nation in the world and we know that students who live in poverty have out of school factors which inhibits their achievement.

“Reformist” politicians, instead of taking responsibility for the high levels of poverty in our nation, blame schools and teachers for low achievement.

Instead of investing in our future – our children – we’re wasting tax dollars on privatizing our education system.

From Paul Krugman

America is unique among advanced countries in its utter indifference to the lives of its youngest citizens.

…In other words, if you judge us by what we do, not what we say, we place very little value on the lives of our children, unless they happen to come from affluent families.

…it would indeed be an investment — every bit as much of an investment as spending money to repair and improve our transportation infrastructure. After all, today’s children are tomorrow’s workers and taxpayers. So it’s an incredible waste, not just for families but for the nation as a whole, that so many children’s futures are stunted because their parents don’t have the resources to take care of them as well as they should. And affordable child care would also have the immediate benefit of making it easier for parents to work productively.


Now reformers want to “give back” New Orleans charters. ‘Can’t avoid democracy forever’.

Local public schools provide more stability than “market forces.”

From Mike Klonsky

…eliminating neighborhood schools has undermined the most vulnerable students by uprooting them from their communities and scattering them to schools citywide.


The big trouble in Indiana public schools, as explained by a troubled educator

It’s almost as if they purposely wanted to create a teacher shortage.

From school counselor Brenda L. Yoder

“…Yes, the mess in education isn’t just affecting those of us who are in education. First, legislators thought we weren’t doing our job, so they legislated the pay scale so good teachers would get paid more for their efforts. In reality, the legislature has capped teacher salaries, not allowing years of experience or education to fiscally matter. Being a highly effective or effective teacher results in a minuscule stipend, maybe enough to get the brakes fixed on your car.

“Salaries for teachers statewide are stagnant. Your income does not rise over time. Families cannot be supported on a teacher’s salary over time, and yet college costs the same for them as it does to be an engineer.

“I wonder why there’s a teacher shortage…”


A master teacher went to court to challenge her low evaluation. What her win means for her profession.

This teacher decided that it was time to take a stand against testing companies and “reformers.”

From Carol Burris

It is time for the madness to stop. It is time for other teachers to stand up and legally challenge their scores. And it is past time for taxpayers to stop these silly measures that cost them millions while enriching test companies and the research firms that produce the teacher scores.


#TeacherAppreciationWeek? Enough, already.

Teaching is high intensity work and teachers carry their job with them wherever they go, sometimes physically, usually mentally, often emotionally. Most teachers have take-home paperwork…themes, assignments, or tests to grade, but they also bring home the mental and emotional quandaries which they deal with every day in the classroom. While fixing dinner a teacher may think about how to reach the hard to educate child in their classroom. While watching TV a teacher might worry about the child living with a dangerous home life. Most teachers don’t leave the classroom when they go home at night.

From Aubyn Scolnick

Teaching during the school year isn’t a full time job. It’s a full time life.


“His freedom guarantees mine”: J. K. Rowling at the 2016 PEN Literary Gala

Silencing those we disagree with doesn’t help anyone.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…”

That freedom is not available all over the world. In Bangladesh, for example, freedom of speech can be severely punished. In the last few years more than a dozen bloggers – citizen journalists celebrating their own free speech – were murdered because of what they wrote. Self proclaimed “speech police” determined that their words were worthy of a death sentence. The government has tried, weakly, to stop the murders, however, they can’t seem to prevent them. They have even stooped so low as to blame the writers for their own death.

PEN America is a group dedicated to the view that “people everywhere have the freedom to create literature, to convey information and ideas, to express their views, and to make it possible for everyone to access the views, ideas, and literatures of others.” This year they honored, among others, British writer J.K. Rowling.

From J.K. Rowling

I find almost everything that Mr. Trump says objectionable. I consider him offensive and bigoted. But he has my full support to come to my country and be offensive and bigoted there.

His freedom to speak protects my freedom to call him a bigot. His freedom guarantees mine. Unless we take that absolute position without caveats or apologies, we have set foot upon a road with only one destination. If my offended feelings can justify a travel ban on Donald Trump, I have no moral ground on which to argue that those offended by feminism or the fight for transgender rights or universal suffrage should not oppress campaigners for those causes. If you seek the removal of freedoms from an opponent simply on the grounds that they have offended you, you have crossed the line to stand alongside tyrants who imprison, torture, and kill on exactly the same justification.