Friday, June 29, 2012

The First Amendment and a Plight

As I said before, my mornings thus far follow a basic pattern of wake up, study, and go to class. Today was no exception.  

The main focus of today's class were the rights bestowed on us by the First Amendment, namely the right to the freedom of speech. As per routine, Luke began the class with a discussion topic. This time, we were asked the question "What is the purpose of free speech?" By the end of the discussion, we reached the following conclusions: 

  • To promote truth
  • To promote peace
  • To prevent rebellion
  • To promote tolerance
  • To promote autonomy
  • To promote democracy 
  • To promote self government 

  • To prevent "dogma", the presence of only one dominating opinion 
The cases we went over today were Schenck b. United States, Abrams v. United States, and Masses Publishing Co. v. Patten. Each of these cases shared the same basic issue of whether the First Amendment protects citizens from being for prosecuted potentially harmful propaganda. The rest of the class was spent exploring the powers of the First Amendment. 

Instead of just hanging out for lunch, I decided to join Lenny at a "TED Talk", which is where a group of students watch a short speech from non-profit organization that allows people to share their new and innovative ideas with the world. After the video, students discuss about the information presented to them. Today's topic was, presented Sam Harris, was on how "science can answer moral questions". If you would like to watch the video, you can do so here

Personally, I feel as though the integration of morals and science is impossible. Science is based on fact, and morals on opinion. Scientific questions have testable, definite answers, whereas morals do not.Basing morals on scientific research alone would then restrict individualized belief, which would in turn  hinder both cultural and personal ethics through a process similar to assimilation. While I didn't agree with Harris' arguments, I still really enjoyed the talk. Being able to hear everyone's opinion exposed me to some new viewpoints that I had never previously considered. I think that exposure such as this is very important if one wants to be an active member of society, as being introduced to new opinions and beliefs is something that is sure to happen   nearly everyday. 

Before the actual lesson started, Jeffery began to talk about on of our upcoming assignment, a research paper arguing the constitutionality of a current legal issue, such as the death penalty or Affirmative Action. While the paper itself is due on the 9th, our topic is due this Friday. 

The afternoon class's lesson continued the theme of "speech and it's limitations". One of the main focuses of the lecture was how the freedom of speech is so heavily protected, the reason for which is outlined in the following seven points: 
  1. The Harm Principle: States that as long as speaker's intent was not to cause harm or destruction, they are allowed to say whatever they please. 
  2. Education Agreement: States that if we allow the educated to express their ideas, they will inform and incite the uneducated.   
  3. Liberal #1: States that you may say whatever you please as long as it is without the intent to forcibly  coerce others beliefs. 
  4. Liberal #2: The "property of rights." States that certain forms of speech are immune to state intervention. 
  5. Democratic Agreement: States that publicity and criticism are protected under the First Amendment.
  6. Self Expression: States that everyone has the right to express their unique opinions. 
  7. Advancement of Science and Culture: As the name suggest, freedom of speech allows for the spread of enlightened ideas and opinions. 
After class, I decided to eat lightly in order to save room for our evening dinner with current Columbia students. With over three hours to get ready, I spent most of my time getting ahead on my weekend homework before I finally went down to meet with the rest of the group. At 7:40 PM my cohorts and I left school to meet with Mrs. L at Columbus Circle. 

Tonight we ate at Marea, a very elegant Italian restaurant with a very wonderful, and dedicated staff. Not only was the restaurant kind enough to offer our group a private room for free, but it's servers were versed enough with the menu that they were able to recite the menu by heart! They even gave us complementary muffins on the way out! 

During the dinner itself, I mainly spoke with Mario and Adriana--two rising junior Columbia students who who's relationship was eerily similar to that of Adrianne and Lucas. Between laughter and dining, we also talked about things such as Columbia's core curriculum, dormitories, and facilities. I honestly think that this was my favorite dinner so far! Not only was the food great, but I managed to learn a lot about Columbia and found out that it's not too different from what we're experiencing now at the High School Summer Program.

The only problem with this evening was a matter of our curfew--by the time we reached the desert course we had less than half an hour to get back to our dorms. After a few rushed goodbyes, we ran to the subway and back to campus as fast as we could. Thankfully, in the end I made it back to my dorm on time--with only four minutes to spare!

I'm glad to say that I'm really starting to adjust to everything both in and out of school. Not only am I talking more in class, but I'm also participating in more activities and meeting more and more people. Now that my first official week as a Columbia student is over, I'm really excited to see what the next two weeks have in store. 

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