Wednesday, March 09, 2005

In which it is revealed that Duck is an exceptionally well-informed citizen of our nation

There was a column in the paper today which cited another one of those dreary polls telling us how little everyone knows about the stuff you're supposed to learn in grade school. Now this was everyone, not just students, and it turns out that fewer than one in ten could name all four freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. I suppose that's not so surprising: I imagine the reason people couldn't remember the fourth one is that it never makes the news, because (unlike free speech, the one everyone knows) the government never challenges it and people take it for granted. So that's good, right?

Actually, I first came up with five, not four, but having taken a peek at the text, I guess the last two, which I thought of separately, are actually one (although separated by a comma and the word "and"). In any case that's the boring one.


Anonymous said...

I've taken a course in law school on the First Amendment, and I've never before heard a reference to "four freedoms" singled out by the amendment. I'm not looking at the text, but just thinking about what I know of the First Amendment, there's (1) free speech, (2) free assembly, (3) free exercise of religion . . . what's the fourth? Does the prohibition on government establishment of a religion count as a freedom? Am I egregiously un-informed? Duck, you make me ashamed of myself.

Duck said...

I hadn't heard the phrase "four freedoms" either. Let's take a look at the text, shall we?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishent of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

So let's see, that's free exercise, speech, press (that's the one you left out), and assembly; and if we are to end up with only four it must mean that the last is assembly for the purposes of petition in particular (what, we can't just hang out?). I guess this means that the right to party is indeed one for which, given its not being constitutionally guaranteed, one must fight. Or maybe the tenth amendment covers that.

Anonymous said...

I think that "freedom of the press" is not anything distinct from "freedom of speech." Many journalists have argued, and continue to argue, that there should be a special privilege for them, but the courts have not provided one. (State law may be different.)

Duck said...

That's interesting. Maybe they put "free press" in there to make clear that when they said "speech" they didn't just mean the guy on the soapbox shooting his mouth off. Does anyone know anything about the Peter Zenger case? (That's all I remember from grade school - the name.)

You know, when I taught CC (that's Contemporary Civilization, a Core Curriculum course at Columbia College, the alliterative Ivy), I gave extra credit on one exam for being able to provide the text of the First Amendment. I told them in advance, and still, only half of them answered at all, and most just wrote the words "free speech". No one gave the entire text, or anything close to it.