A word merely 10 letters long holds the power to change the course of an entire story.
Ever since the age of 6, my words and actions have been heavily monitored to ensure adherence to Catholic school standards. This censorship was of no consequence to me until, in the eighth grade, I was exposed to the freedom that public schools can offer. When I became a part of Marian Journalism years later I flashed back to my eighth-grade self and realized that this censorship wasn’t going away any time soon. It is an inevitable part of life, and it is here to stay. As we grow and mature, we learn what we’ve always been taught from our elders, “think before you speak,” which is a form of self-censorship. Every day we engage in conversations where we hold our tongue and keep our true thoughts and emotions to ourselves rather than letting it flow out. My safe haven where I am protected from this self-censorship is in Room 304 where I can freely type away at my computer my thoughts and my feelings. But once this self-censorship is stripped, another type of censorship can occur.
Each article written for The Network goes through several stages of revision including page editors, copy editors, managing editors, the adviser Mrs. Marsha Kalkowski and administration. This review conforms personal opinion to fit the Catholic and recruitment lens. By sometimes throwing self-expression and individuality out the window, censorship seems to leave no room for conversation or debate. The controversial issues that are avoided by censorship allude to the fact that the world outside of Marian High School is a messy, diverse place that has many sides to it.
Life isn’t always black and white, yet throughout my Catholic school experience, that is how some of my teachers have approached it. Filtering the media through prior review of the student-led newspaper can censor the passionate voices of our students and can be detrimental to impressionable peers who need to be informed about the real world and able to particpiate in civil discourse. Down the road there may even be civil discourse lessons in homeroom.
Whenever I write a piece for The Network, I have to consider the audience I am writing for: the mass of confident, independent thinking leaders in our Marian community both close and far. The audience includes prospective students and the parents who provide the funds to keep our school open. Our school’s mission statement promises to create young women who are mature enough to handle the diverse culture that society throws at them on a day-to-day basis. However, parent reactions to these articles often lead administration to filter the press instead of embracing the outside world and letting us learn from it.
Reading and writing about raw issues in modern society is essential to inform the youth, even in a Catholic-focused environment. We should all be educated citizens of the United States, so we can contribute to the political progress rather than deter it. Some teachers purposely argue both sides of an issue to prompt us to think and some just avoid it entirely. Learning about these complex, multi-sided issues in an unbiased, education-focused way is essential for a teenager who is evolving and growing in their beliefs.
As we take positions on various issues, we need to practice expressing our opinions so that this politically charged environment doesn’t grow more hostile. The structured classroom environment is a perfect place for students to learn and understand each others perspectives, but censorship can rob us of this opportunity. It is imperative to know how to have a civil discussion about real-world situations because, once we leave the safety of this secure environment, most of us will get thrown into an uncensored college experience, where anything and everything is up for conversation.
I understand parents’ concerns about exposing their children to sensitive issues, especially on the basis of the Catholic faith in our community, however, as confident, independent thinking leaders inspired by faith, we need to be prepared to enter this new, foreign atmosphere. More than 65 percent of the Class of 2018 continued their education at public institutions, where you can’t hide behind the shield granted by censorship in a Catholic high school.
Censoring student voices is a reality whether it is by ourselves, our peers, or educators. It plays a huge role in the progression of young minds in our society.
In retrospect, the press is only one piece of the puzzle leading to understanding and acceptance.