1. Home
  2.  » 
  3. Commentary
  4.  » Do Students in the U.S. Have a Constitutional Right NOT to Be ‘Captive Audiences’ to Left-Wing Ideology?

Robert Bridge – Strategic Culture July 19, 2021

There’s a war on for the hearts and minds of children across the U.S. and the battlefield has become the very schools that millions of Americans are required to send their kids for a state-run education. But just as everyone has a constitutional right to speak their mind, members of the audience should never be forced to listen against their will.

In addition to the everyday worries over the physical safety of our children are concerns over their mental wellbeing, a subject that at one time could be largely taken for granted. No more. It’s no secret that many schools are subjecting children to lessons on transgender and alternative sexual lifestyles, as well as the racist ideology of critical race theory.

For millions of Americans on both sides of the political divide, these teachings are ideological heresies that have absolutely no place in the classroom. And make no mistake, people are no longer passively accepting the agenda. In school board meetings around the country, furious parents are speaking out against their children being indoctrinated with the latest madness to escape from the liberal laboratory of social engineering. Yet such teachings are already entrenched into the curriculum and will not go away without a major struggle.

That much was made clear earlier this month when the National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s largest teachers union, voted to support the tenets of Critical Race Theory (CRT), which postulates that the United States is plagued by “systemic racism” and that white people enjoy advantages in life due to their inborn “privilege.” That diabolical and divisive concept, which promises to tear America apart at the seams, is being prepared for export to all 50 states and 14,000 local school districts.

Yet here is a question few are asking: are the constitutional rights of American students being trampled upon in the face of these radical Marxist lectures? The question becomes even more pertinent when it is realized that, according to a YouGov poll, 58% of Americans are adamantly opposed to the teachings of CRT, with just 38% saying they supported it.

CUA Law Scholarship Repository

In 2010, Roger C. Hartley, a professor at the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, published a legal treatise that perfectly captures the dilemma of our days, entitled, ‘Freedom not to Listen: A Constitutional Analysis of Compulsory Indoctrination Through Workplace Captive Audience Meetings.’ I would encourage everyone to read this liberally footnoted document. Although it is primarily concerned with workers not being “force-fed the employer’s religious and political ideology at the workplace,” Hartley also includes discussion on unwanted indoctrination inside of the classroom.

“The past several decades have clarified much regarding the freedom not to listen,” Hartley writes at a time when the first ideological inroads were being cut into the classroom. “It derives from the freedom of thought, which assures every person the associated freedom to acquire knowledge, including the freedom to decide what knowledge to acquire-which viewpoints to entertain and which to avoid.”

“The marketplace of ideas permits no forced orthodoxy,” Hartley continues. “This freedom to filter intellectual input into one’s consciousness supports a constitutionally recognized liberty interest in not being coerced into listening” [italics added].

“This freedom not to listen trumps the speaker’s right to speak, however, only when the listener cannot avoid the objectionable speech through reasonable efforts.”

In other words, any listener who is considered part of a “captive audience” is a listener whose constitutional rights are being violated. And who more than our children, compelled as they are to receive a compulsory education courtesy of the state, comprise the greatest number of captive audiences?

Hartley says that the way to determine whether one is a captive audience is whether avoiding unwelcome speech is “impractical” – not impossible. For example, oftentimes it will not be practical to quit one’s present employment over the question of indoctrination.

In the legal case, Bethel School Dist. No. 403 v. Fraser (1986), the Court concluded that students attending a mandatory high school assembly constituted a “captive audience.” The Court proceeded to rule against a student whose speech to the assembly contained sexual innuendos, ruling that school officials “[should] protect children-especially in a captive audience-from exposure to sexually explicit, indecent, or lewd speech.”

Based on that decision, the climate inside of the classroom is now siding with those who are desirous of propagating the most explicit material imaginable, even to preschool children. Public libraries, meanwhile, have taken to hosting ‘Drag Queen Story Hour’ for impressionable youth.

Hartley then proceeds to make the more principle-based argument against preaching to the captive crowd: “It makes no sense to conclude that centuries of struggle to secure the freedom of the mind from coercion should… come to nothing more than the right to make a choice between subjecting oneself to forced indoctrination of what may well be a reviled point of view or quitting one’s employment and sacrificing years of investment in a job.”

While countess corporate employees are receiving their fair share of “workplace indoctrination” – as recently revealed at Google, Coca-Cola and Raytheon – that pales in comparison to the amount of indoctrination students are receiving on a daily basis inside of their classrooms. A classical education anchored on historical precedence stretching back thousands of years has been largely vanquished in favor of teaching social justice claptrap that prepares students for a turbulent life of activism and sexual deviancy but little else. Even mathematics, the most subjective of disciplines, has been tainted by allegations of racism and ‘white privilege.’

The bottom line is that no student should be required to sit through lessons that they and their parents find ideologically repulsive. But what are their options? After all, it is no less practical for an employee to change his job than for a student to change his school, or start homeschooling, which few can afford.

At this point, it would appear that the U.S. public school system and the courts must be prepared to work on behalf of children who are not comfortable listening to lectures that cut against their personal ideological grain. Students subjected to sexually explicit material, or uncritical race-based theories should be permitted to politely excuse themselves from such controversial studies without the threat of academic punishment hanging over their heads. The U.S. Constitution and First Amendment demand it.