There are five parts to the First Amendment: freedom of religion, speech, press, petition and assembly. Now, it’s about understanding those rights and what to do with them that matters, according to retired-Col. Steve Miska.
On Tuesday, Miska was hosted at College of the Canyons and led a discussion on the First Amendment to a group of students, faculty members and members of the public.
During the discussion, students were asked to examine their own biases, how they consume media and what can be done for general discourse within a divided country, Miska’s daughter Heather said.
“School campuses can get pretty divisive,” said Heather Miska, who helps her dad run his own nonprofit, First Amendment Voice. “There have been huge clashes on campus where people just can’t find common ground. We want to bring people together and realize that’s possible.”
During the day’s discussion, students were asked to examine a variety of major media outlets and see how they can be biased toward one side or another. They were then asked how they could achieve a balanced perspective.
“The First Amendment allows us freedom of speech, but we have to know how to use it to … become a filter,” said George Banna, 17, one of the students in attendance at the discussion. “I think it’s important to regulate our own opinions and maybe accept other people’s values more and allow everyone to have their First Amendment rights.”
The discussion was also open to the public and to College of the Canyons staff, which allowed for a wide range of ages in the room.
Miska said the combination of ages can help contribute to the discussion because each age group has its strengths and weaknesses. While many in the younger generations have not had a holistic civic education, they also do better at tuning out more polarized news networks, unlike the older generations who, according to Miska, are less likely to tune out disinformation but have been taught about civics throughout their lives.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if that type of learning happened between the younger and older generations in this room today,” said Miska.
The event was run in coordination with Miska’s First Amendment Voice and the Institute of Ethics, Law and Public Policy at COC.