The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
If every American went to the Newseum in Washington, D.C., would the First Amendment be in better shape?
Every year, the First Amendment Center issues a State of the First Amendment report based on telephone interviews. In 2008, 40 percent of respondents'the greatest percentage thus far'were not able to identify one of First Amendment freedoms.
Visitors to the Newseum respond to similar kinds of questions on kiosks as they exit the First Amendment Gallery. More of the Newseum visitors, by that poll, appreciate the First Amendment than do members of the general public, by the State of the First Amendment survey.
Just 12 percent of Newseum visitors say the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees, but 20 percent of the public says the same. Similarly, 39 percent of the public and 18 percent of Newseum visitors say the American press has too much freedom.
It's not a scientific comparison, but it appears people at the Newseum have the kinds of attitudes about the First Amendment that its supports would love to see in the general public surveys. Why? It is because the Newseum, which has the world's largest copy of the First Amendment on its facade, simply attracts freedom-lovers? Or is there something special they learn inside? Or both?
The issue of First Amendment education has been in the news for years, since a major national study showed more than 75 percent of'high school students did not know about or care about all of these fundamental freedoms.