Survey shows high school attitudes changing

MIAMI — An update to a 2004 survey of high school students and teachers shows more education could be helping students understand and approve of press freedom, but an increasing number of students believe the First Amendment “goes too far.”

The 2006 update of the survey “The Future of the First Amendment,” by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, questioned 15,000 high school students and 800 teachers about issues such as high school censorship and First Amendment education. The original survey questioned more than 100,000 students and 8,000 teachers.

Ten of the study’s 14 questions about the First Amendment show improvement in student education and knowledge, according to a news release. The report also found that 72 percent of students surveyed have taken classes dealing with the First Amendment, up 14 percent from 2004.

More education seems to have had an effect on affirming freedom of the press in America, with 41 percent of students saying the press has “about the right amount of freedom,” a jump from 37 percent in 2004. Thirty percent of students said they believed the press had “too much freedom,” down two points from 32 percent in 2004.

The study also shows that 64 percent of students favored a high school students’ right to publish stories without prior review of a school authorities, up from 58 percent two years ago. In a related statistic, 54 percent of those surveyed said all newspapers should be able to publish content without government approval, up 3 percent from the previous survey.

Although progress seems to have been made, the survey also found that 45 percent of students feel the First Amendment as a whole goes too far, a jump of 10 percent from two years ago. Teachers’ attitudes have changed, however, with only 29 percent of those surveyed saying the press has too much freedom, down 9 percent from the 2004 edition of the survey.