Wednesday, February 21, 2007

I am actually in a better mood than this post reflects.

43 percent of Americans read at a fifth-grade level or lower. That explains a lot.

Relatedly: I've been meaning to write something about Posner's opinion in the Gifties v. Tards case, but I'm just not able to work myself into a suitable state of righteous anger* right this moment. For now, suffice it to say that Posner's opinion is dangerously elitist in its refusal to protect speech that is childish or uneloquent. The First Amendment is not just for those of us who can articulate reasoned policy positions for our beliefs. It's also for people who think "fuck the draft" conveys everything they want to say and for those who express themselves via crude bumper stickers. Pamphleteers, wavers of giant puppets, exotic dancers, pompous law professors, performance artists, and talking heads all have the right to free expression. Children do too. If Posner had decided Tinker, would we have heard about the silliness of wearing armbands?

Similarly, his brusque assertions about the existence of other avenues of protest, such as petitions to the principal and school council, ignore the importance of being able to communicate the message of a protest to different audiences; expressing something to one's schoolmates is not the same as expressing something to a school official. That way lies the carefully fenced-off "free speech zone."

I wonder what else could be considered an "inappropriate slogan" in public schools: anti-war messages? anti-Bush messages? anti-homosexuality messages in a school with gay students? Posner's ruling tars all such expression with a pretty broad brush. It was apparently more important for the judge to snark at the students than it was for him to respect the rights at issue.

* (Okay, so I guess I worked up a ranty head of steam after all.)

UPDATE: PG says I'm wrong. I rebut her here.
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