By Joan Janzen 

Three students sat outside the principal’s office. The first kid said, “I said the ‘F’ word.” The second student confessed, “I said the ‘sh..’ word.” The third child said, “I said ‘Christmas’.”

Which brings me to my question, “What is free speech anyway?”

Winston Churchill said, “Some people’s idea of free speech is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage.” And anyone who has been brave enough to challenge someone’s post on social media, will have found that out for themselves.

Perhaps that’s what inspired these words, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad.”

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), run by volunteers, explains that the right to express yourself and form your own opinions is an essential feature of democracy. They go on to explain, it is only through exposure to different ideas and opinions that young people can make their own informed choices about their core beliefs. But are our children receiving a broad spectrum of ideas and opinions?

I read a caption that said, “Government Censorship: Protecting You from Reality”. CCLA writes, “When government decides which opinions can be expressed and which cannot, an open and diverse society quickly breaks down. There is no guarantee that government will make the right decisions for their subjects because even the most knowledgeable of rulers are human beings with weaknesses.”

In autocratic societies people cannot disagree and the government decides what viewpoints the people may hear and see. However, if you’ve listened to mainstream media, you may have noticed a tendency to either avoid opposing views to the liberal mind set, or label them as idiotic, old school, or hate speech.

William Wilberforce said, “If you love someone who is ruining his life because of faulty thinking, and you don’t do anything about it because you’re afraid of what others might think, it would seem that rather than being loving, you are in fact being heartless.” These words were spoken by a man who spent decades fighting for the abolition of the slave trade amidst a government that heartily endorsed it.

Others, such as Einstein, Edison and the Wright brothers were all motivated to do great things by disagreeing with the prevailing beliefs and practices of their day.

These words by Robert Kennedy explain, “Hand in hand with freedom of speech goes the power to be heard, to share in the decisions of government which shape men’s lives.”

One of the most influential thinkers in the history of liberalism said, “If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of a contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing the one person than it would be justified in silencing all of mankind.”

A cartoon I read sums up this issue quite well. A mom is prompting her baby to say his very first words, and the caption for the baby reads: “OK, I’ll talk. But I want my attorney present.”

We want our kids to grow up in a country where they’re not afraid to express their thoughts or challenge those of others.

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