Freedom of Speech has boundaries

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THE IDEA of exposing the beginner level students to newspaper articles in the target language is absurd given the fact that they are in the process of  learning how to express simple phrases such as “my mother’s book” and “a blue sweater.” Evidently, students in the lower level of any language won’t be capable of having a discussion about politics, literature or cinema where it is essential to apply more complex sentence structures and higher level vocabulary.

Students at Townsend Harris are exposed to listening and speaking activities according to their level of proficiency.  In higher levels of Spanish, the students express their ideas, read the Spanish classics, newspapers, magazines and watch television in the target language.

The author of “Foreign Language: let’s speak more, write less” had the right to express her opinion on this particular matter, however, to what extent does a student have the authority to judge and, by doing so, disrespect a teacher’s hard work? It is offensive to minimize a teacher’s professional decision in regards to the best method on which all his or her students would learn better.

Arrogance, general statements, diminishing comments and ignorance are all found in this recent article.  A question then arises, what exactly is the role of an editor in a respected institution such as Townsend Harris? If a student decides to publish an article about drug use, and prostitution would he or she be allowed to do so because it is under their right of the First Amendment?  What is the role of the adult supervisor? What is the limit between freedom of expression and appropriateness? It is not the first time we have seen this type of article in our school’s newspaper.

Freedom of speech has boundaries and it is the role of an educator to guide students towards doing what our Ephebic Oath states: “not to leave our city any less but rather greater than we found it.”  Was that goal accomplished? It was not necessary to denigrate teachers’ knowledge and experience nor was it needed to criticize their efforts to build a solid foundation that will eventually help students use the target language.

I sincerely hope that in the future, the newspaper Townsend Harris High School is lucky to have, will be more respectful of the entire community.