Our children and students are not products that are just being acted upon; they are people who are participating in the services we provide. Our attempts to clothe, feed, and provide sustainable shelter are services we provide to ensure their survival. Our acts of love involve establishing boundaries that aid healthy development. Most parents and educators agree on a few core boundaries and acts of love. But one that I see few advocate for is the same right guaranteed by our own government. Free speech.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” (Emphasis added)
Most adults in positions of authority would gasp at the thought of another adult ordering a child around and the child just going along with it. But, that’s what we expect them to do every day.
Speech is nothing and everything at the same time. It is everything because it is the most effective communication tool we have if it is allowed to develop and flourish. It is nothing because even when speech is shut down the body will generate other behaviors as an attempt to communicate its needs to the outside world.
Guaranteeing the freedom of speech is no simple task and takes patience and dedication. It may help to remember that speech only represents the idea that is already within the mind. If you limit the speech, doesn’t the idea still exist? Instead, use the speech to cultivate communication between you and the children you care for. Take their feedback, maintain the boundaries that are appropriate for their safety and security, and give them the space to figure the rest out with your support.
If we choose to not do this then our children will hide their thoughts and wait for a time when a person will hear them. They’ll abandon our influence and draw themselves closer to the ones who listen.