First Amendment discussion increases in America's classrooms, Knight study finds

Knight Foundation survey of 15,000 U.S. high-school students and 800 of their teachers has recorded increased teaching of First Amendment issues over the last two years. The high-school students know more about the free speech/free press issues than found in an initial, larger, $1-million study in 2004 entitled: "The Future of the First Anendment."


But the Knight Foundation said the latest results also show students increasingly polarized about how they feel on First Amendment issues. A website with details of the findings by University of Connecticut researchers Dr. David Yalof and Dr. Kenneth Dautrich, is public today at:

"We see progress," said Eric Newton, Knight's director of Journalism Initiatives, "but there are still serious problems."

To make progress, things need to be taken to a different battlefield, Warren Watson, director of the J-IDEAS program at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., said in a Media Giraffe Project interview. (PLAY MP3 AUDIO; 8.2 mins.) "There needs to be strong public policy encouraging student media and civic learning -- perhaps something that might  require the use of media in schools -- which is something you don't see as much as you used to a generation ago."

Watson says the second key shift is to work with principal and administrators more. "If you convert all the students and teachers in a school, and if you have a principal who is not very prone to observe the First Amendment and use it in the day-to-day running of a school, you're gooing to negate everything."

In today's conference call, which included Watson, 
researchers reported  that high-school students are far more likely to take classes that teach about the First Amendment than two years ago. And more students now support protections for the news media.

The researchers said students are more in favor of their right to report in their own newspapers without school officials' approval. But more students today think the First Amendment, as a whole, goes too far in the rights it guarantees, the new survey research found.

Knight said the results show a gap is widening between those who support this fundamental law and those who don't. And teachers, while themselves increasing their appreciation of the First Amendment, don't think schools are doing a great job of teaching it, the foundation added in a news release about the findings.

Knight Foundation president talks about the influence of teachers:

EARLIER POST ABOUT Constitution Day (Sept. 18) announcement:


The Knight Foundation's contact for the study is Larry Meyer, vice president of communications
Knight Foundation(305) 908-2610,


-- The Knight-funded website
-- The  J-Ideas website at Ball State
-- The USAToday story on the Knight-funded study findings
-- Package on the Poynter Institute site overviewing the study
-- Poynter's "Tip Sheet for High School Journalists."
-- Why do suburban teens show less interest in press/speech freedom?


Report Summary
Key Findings
Student Survey
Faculty Survey
Comments on follow-up survey
PDF of follow-up survey
Blank survey for class use