A question that brings tears to a journalist

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Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, by dcwriterdawn, via Flickr

I spent the morning judging entries for a high school journalism competition. Many were quite good, showing clear thinking, maturity and solid language skills. I always come away impressed.

And yet, there are entries that make me hang my head.

That was the case this morning. On one entry for an editing competition, a student had written a question about a quote:

What’s the first amendment?

The idea was that students would capitalize First Amendment in the story they were editing. I wasn’t prepared for someone asking what the First Amendment is.

Most people, students included, could use a refresher on the First Amendment. So here it is:

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.

It’s simple but oh so important. If you’re shaking your head about all this, try this quiz about the First Amendment from USA Today and the First Amendment Center. Like most multiple choice tests, it has flaws, but it’s humbling nonetheless.

As for the contest entry, I suggested that the student look up the First Amendment and become familiar with it. I can only hope.

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