Free Speech at School

I think that Eugene Volokh is correct (as usual) when he criticizes the Ninth Circuit Court’s recent Harper v. Poway Unified School Dist. decision permitting a high-school to prohibit a student from wearing a T-shirt that read: “HOMOSEXUALITY IS SHAMEFUL.” Public schools should respect students’ free speech rights as much as possible; and when they are restricted, it should be in a viewpoint-neutral way.

Children aren’t sub-humans who need to be protected from some ideas in order to function. All of the reasons for why it’s important to have speech rights for adults apply to children at school. Schools should provide an environment where ideas (even unpopular ones) can be confronted and considered and criticized; not banned.

I don’t like schools.

While I agree that they provide valuable opportunities for some children, I’m confident that they do a great deal of harm, and should certainly not be compulsory. I hope that we’ll get better institutions for kids that will provide more of the benefits and fewer of the costs that traditional schools currently provide.

But, if there are going to be schools, I think that we need to move away from government-run schools and toward privately-run schools. I’m under no illusion that all private schools are better than all public schools (with respect to speech rights, or anything else), but I think we’re more likely to have an evolution toward more useful schools when they compete for the business of their customers: students and their parents.

This particular case is just reason #42893743 why the government is incompetent to manage the education of citizens.


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