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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

You can't say that

Students don't have real discussions in his AP English class, writes 11th-grader Zach Gottlieb in the Los Angeles Times. Every one knows the "approved positions on issues such as gender identity, patriarchy, cultural appropriation and microaggressions," and they know that "any perceived misstep can ruin a reputation in a flash."

However, one day, as students walked down the hall, someone expressed an opinion that would have been taboo in class, and someone else responded with an actual opinion, he writes. It was a "revelation."

Just when my friends and I should be trying out many perspectives and figuring out where we stand, we’re self-censoring, following familiar scripts. . . . if we spend our teenage years afraid we might share our thoughts in the wrong way or at the wrong moment, how is this affecting a crucial ingredient in becoming an adult: the ability to think critically?

In a 2020 survey of New York City high school students, 60 percent said they censored their views in class, Gottlieb. notes.

A 2022 Knight Foundation survey reported that 89 percent of high school students said people should be allowed to express “unpopular” opinions, but only 40 percent agreed that people should be allowed to say whatever they want, even if it’s “offensive.”

"Of course, almost anything can be deemed offensive," Gottlieb writes.

College students are afraid to explore ideas, says Rikki Schlott in a Reason interview iwth Nick Gillespie. Schlott, who teamed up with Greg Lukianoff to crite The Canceling of the American Mind, self-censored in high school. When she started NYU as right-leaning libertarian," she hid her Thomas Sowell and Jordan Peterson books under the bed. Finally, she came out politically -- and dropped out of college.

Young people are supposed to "explore different ideas and be an anarchist one day and a communist the next day and figure it out in the end, but we've taught young people that any of their missteps or any of their heterodox opinions are grounds to tear them down," she says. "That's no way to grow up."

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