Everyday. Everyday we see articles, blogs, and videos of citizens having their rights violated; values demoralized; and beliefs taunted. Each report by media outlets is filled with bias, whether it be natural or driven by a “secret agenda” as so many claim. Within the Constitution is a set of rights or principles that were granted to each individual by our founding fathers. To this day, every American holds true to these principles; it is these principles that make us different, make us unique, it is these principles that make us free. But what happens when these rights are violated, when our values are destroyed? What happens when our way of life is suspended to make way for a greater or safer good? When we as citizens no longer have a voice, are too afraid speak up or speak out in fear of retribution, are we losing our liberty? Are we putting our values on trial?
In the classroom, the lectern is a place of prowess. When one rises to speak, all listen. The classroom is a valuable place, it’s where logic, reason, and passion combine to fuel the most sophisticated ‘think-tank’ and whose products include future lawyers, doctors, physicians, even teachers. But what happens when freedom of thought is threatened and academic freedom is lost? In March 2003, a Citrus College professor gave students extra credit if they wrote to President Bush, however, credit would only be given to those who wrote in opposition of the war. Those who wrote and supported the war received no extra credit. (Bernbaum) Another example comes from the University of Massachusetts where students enrolled in an art history class had dedicated class time to writing their representatives about looming budget cuts. Students were pressured to join a protest, the professor would blame a political party and passed out voter registration cards. (Wright) It begs the question, was this a rally or a course on art history?
There have been countless accords on the suppression of freedom of thought, these accords span from the 21st century to the 4th century B.C. The most prominent being the prosecution of the philosopher Socrates. In the Apology of Socrates, Plato makes many points, but one key point parallels that discussed above: Socrates maintained that any individual at any cost, refuse to be coerced by any human authority or tribunal into a course which his own mind condemns as wrong. Furthermore, he asserts the supremacy of the individual conscience, over human law. “Are you not ashamed of setting your heart on wealth and honours while you have no care for wisdom and truth...I do know that it is a bad thing to desert one’s post and I prefer what may be good to what I know to be bad.” (McLatchey)
A more recent example is the political targeting of conservative filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza who directed 2016: Obama’s America, a film highly critical of President Obama. The federal government accused D’Souza of donating too much money to a candidate who wished to replace former New...