The Threat of High-School Journalism

Timothy Pate High School Journalism

This story came out of my hometown yesterday:

Staff at the Palmer Ridge High School student newspaper expected “significant reaction” when they endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton for president, but they’ve been surprised by the vitriol they’ve received.

“Some of the stuff we’ve seen on Facebook is quite disgusting,” said Evan Ochsner, a Palmer Ridge senior and co-editor-in-chief. “There were a lot of personal attacks that seemed out of bounds. It almost borders on bullying.”

Angry parents e-mailed the school and used social media to say last week’s editorial was inappropriate for a student publication, that Republican Donald Trump should have been given equal space, and that the paper’s staff should be suspended. They said newspaper adviser Tom Patrick was a “communist” and a “socialist.” They accused him of indoctrinating students and called for his job.

Boy, liberal PC culture sure is getting out of hand, isn’t it?

This doesn’t come as much of a surprise to me. The residents of Monument, Colorado, are deeply conservative and intensely frightened of liberals who might threaten their convictions.

But just imagine, for a moment, how fragile your beliefs must be for the writings of a few high-school students to threaten you so severely. Imagine feeling so intimidated that going online and bullying those kids, as an adult, seems like a reasonable and worthy thing to do.

These delicate people are calling for the students who penned the endorsement to be suspended and the teacher to be fired. Let that sink in. That’s why Trump gets away with his severe opposition to the First Amendment: many people are comfortable crushing free speech as long as it’s the other side’s speech that’s being silenced.

It just so happens that the students at the paper also made other endorsements for local candidates and ballot initiatives. Nearly all of them were conservative choices, including:

Of course, you don’t hear outcry from the community over these endorsements.

Though the mob has tried to frame their outrage in terms of “fairness” to both candidates or “inappropriateness” of high-school students getting involved in politics in this way, the truth is that they can’t bear exposure to opinions they don’t share. That’s a sad statement about the prospect of democratic discourse in my hometown.

These students took a chance with their endorsement. They got involved in the political process and proved their maturity by providing sound reasoning to support their decision. I can’t say as much for the adults whose knee-jerk reactions demonstrated a profound opposition to the free exchange of ideas and basic civility.

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