Via Milwaukee Journal Online, an interesting article, As Social Media Grow, So Does First Amendment Appreciation, describes research conducted by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The foundation has taken four surveys, beginning in 2001, to learn more about what high school students know and understand about the First Amendment of the Constitution. (Read the First Amendment here.) The Knight Foundation website explains how that group got started with this work
… after surveys of American adults conducted by The Freedom Forum showed that even modern-day support for the First Amendment is neither universal nor stable. In the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks, support for the First Amendment plummeted. Suddenly, the nation was almost evenly split on the question of whether or not the First Amendment “goes too far in the rights it guarantees.’’
Early on many of the students surveyed did not seem to understand the First Amendment — in fact, many expressed the view that people were given too many rights. However, in its most recent 2011 survey, the Knight Foundation found a relationship between teens’ use of social media and electronic news sources and their increased support for the rights guaranteed in the First Amendment. Read the report of the 2011 survey (PDF) which is filled with compelling graphs and charts the illustrate the range of answers to the survey questions. A few observations from page six of the executive summary of the report include (read more in the report):
- Students who use social media have increasing support for the First Amendment.
- Students are using digital news media at record levels (the report uses the word “exploding”).
- Teachers continue to question the impact of social media on learning, but many teachers believe that social media should be a part of the learning environment. Many school administrators disagree, however.
My favorite quote from the survey report: “Since young people represent the future of public opinion, they are the real overseers of the future of the First Amendment.”
Read the 2004 Knight Foundation report.
Parents who want to help their children learn more about the United States Constitution can check out this site.