Expert urges discomfort for teens

Natalie Glick, Deputy Editor

Listening to opposing views is critical to being part of a working democracy, but one First Amendment scholar says teens need to listen more.

Geoffrey Stone, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, has spent much of his law career studying and promoting freedom of speech, including on campuses. He especially promotes unpopular speech.

“I think it’s important for citizens of a democracy to open to hearing ideas that [they] themselves reject. If people are unwilling to do that, there would never have been a successful civil rights movement, there would never have been a successful women’s rights movement, there would never have been a successful gay rights movement,” Professor Stone said.

All of these movements, in their roots, are defiant of the views of the average American at the time.Professor Stone said, “It’s important for people to understand that as convinced as they might be about the rightness of their views, they might be wrong.”

“I think schools should teach students to be critical thinkers about anything that they are presented with. It’s important for students to understand that there are widely disparate views about our society in our nation.””

— Geoffrey Stone, Professor

In order to fully understand where the other side is coming from, students have to look toward a variety of news outlets. According to Professor Stone, the media tends not to remain impartial anymore, due to lack of government regulation.

Professor Stone said that Americans have split into groups based upon beliefs and how they perceive facts.

“It was never the case that everybody was on the same page, but there was a time when many more people were aware of the same information. But now there is this great division, and people get their information from widely different sources. If you say, ‘I don’t know anybody who supported Donald Trump, and how could they possibly have done that,’” Professor Stone said, “[then] it’s important to understand that in the current media environment you weren’t reading any of the stuff that they were reading. You didn’t hear the things they were listening to.”

In order to patch a divided America, Professor Stone believes educators and schools need to increase their role in educating students about the importance of free speech.

Students need to be willing to listen to others talk about their ideas.

“I think schools should teach students to be critical thinkers about anything that they are presented with,” Professor Stone said, acknowledging limitations of education. “It’s important for students to understand that there are widely disparate views about our society in our nation.”

Professor Stone believes all generations must work on educating themselves about opposite opinions.

“Part of the challenge for people in your generation in particular, but for all of us, is to understand that we are seeing a very distorted version of the world if we operate carelessly and simply read only the things that agree with them, which is what people now tend increasingly to do,” Professor Stone said. “That leads us to be much more self-confident about being right, and leads us not to hear arguments on the other side. It leads them to be much more intolerant of other views, and that’s not where we should want to be.”