Monday, October 27, 2008

Mock Election: Free Speech Debate

(Please see the 'Mock Election' link in the sidebar for more info on our mock Presidential election!)

The original issue placed before the candidates was: "Do you think speech should be limited? If so, what limits should the government place on it? If not, why not?"

The debate--

Mod: Miss Fleming, you have stated that you want to abolish the words, "dumb,' "nuts", "crazy", "mean", "little one", and "s-word". Will you please explain why you think it is right to forbid people to say these words?

Miss Fleming: The reason I want to abolish those words is because they are mean. Out of all the words in the english language-- there are millions-- why use the ones that offend people? the words we have already abolished in the house are good to be abolished, but I believe the citizens have been given a little too much freedom of speech. Including myself.

Mod: Okay. Let me give you a hypothetical situation. Hypothetical means something that might happen but hasn't happened yet. Let's say these words were abolished and one day someone in the house was grumpy and another person said something that upset that first person. Before the aforementioned were abolished, the offended person might have called that other person 'dumb' or one of the other words. Now this person knows she will have a punishment for saying that word, so what do you think she will do?

Miss Fleming: We would have to know what the second person said. Suppose the person said, "Hey you mr. grumpy gills!" and the person really fried up about that. If I were in that position I would say, "Oh, just go away! I don't want to blow up at you!"

Mod: Miss Green, same question. Why do you think it is right to abolish those words?

Miss Green: After thought I have realized, we don't even need to abolish these words. After all, the words themselves are not what is messing up the situation. It's the way the other person received those words.

Mod: Okay. So you are saying that if the person being called a name would just not be so sensitive, there wouldn't be an issue?

Miss Green: I'm saying that instead of abolishing these words-- after all, we are going to be bumping up against them in regular life anyway-- we ought to teach citizens how to respond to these sort of words without blowing up, saying something rude back, or even having to leave the room. We ought to teach them the proper response to these words so any time these words come up, they can avoid losing their temper. I'm still saying I think you shouldn't say them, but I don't want to go so far as abolishing them.

Mod: Mr. Kermit, do you think it is right to abolish these words?

Mr. Kermit: Well, I agree with Miss Green. She is right by saying that we shouldn't abolish so many words. But I still think that we should abolish 's-word'.

Miss Green: I agree.

Mod: Miss Fleming, do you think 's-word' ought to be abolished.

Miss Fleming: Yes. And I want to say that not all of us can take it like water off a duck's back. We need to do what's best for everyone and not just for a few people.

Mod: Okay. I have another question. Miss Fleming, it seems to me that the more words we abolish, the more creative people will get when they feel the urge to call someone a name. How do you propose to get around this?

Miss Fleming: What do you mean?

Mod: Well, right now there are a very few words in this household nation that are forbidden to say. The people of this nation are very good to stay away from those words. One such word is 'stupid'. Now, citizens never say this word. However, they think it is okay to say 's-word'. That means the same thing as 'stupid'. So if we abolish this new list of words, what is to stop citizens from coming up with other codes to get their name-calling points across?

Miss Fleming: Not all of us say 's-word.' I have nothing else to say.

Miss Green: I agree with what she said about how some citizens can't take it like water off a duck's back. That is why we need to teach them to do so. After all, they can't blow up at people of other nations.

Mod: That's a good point. I think teaching restraint is wise. But what about the name-caller?

Miss Green: I've read of a family who had a jar, and every time someone did something-- in our nation it would be whenever someone said a restricted words-- they had to drop in a dime. Whenever the jar was filled up, they would take all the money out, explain why you don't call names, and then use the money to go out for a treat.

Miss Fleming: Anyone in the family? Including the government?

Miss Green: Yes.

Mod: As the chief bureaucrat of this government, I see some problems with the administration of this plan. Please tell me how you propose to implement the consequence if the government is not in the room when the word is said. For instance, if it is one person's word against another's.

Miss Green: Nobody ever says a bad word to themselves. I would bring a witness along, but also, if all the citizens are trustworthy, then when the word is said, the other person will remind the first person that she said a word, and the person will go put a dime in the jar.

Miss Fleming: I saw a flaw in your plan. It'll make the people want to say bad words because they'll know there will be a reward at the end.

Miss Green: If they want to put dimes in the jar, they can do it any time.

Mod: Miss Green, you said 'if all the citizens are trustworthy.' I beg leave to point out that if all the citizens were trustworthy, and this was just bad habit, we wouldn't need this law.

Miss Green: Well, I know that for some of us, it's a bad habit, and this would be a way to break the bad habit.

Mod: Okay. I have to say, as a member of the government, that I really see this as a heart issue as well as a bad habit. I think a jar with dimes is a little premature and we have some heart work to do first. How would you combat the heart issue behind the bad habit?

Miss Green: I would have, in addition to the 10-cent fee, you have to do a heart journal.

Miss Fleming: Ooh, I like that idea.

Mod: Okay, I have another question. What if, instead of saying one of the verboten (that's 'forbidden' in German) words, the person who is upset says, "Aw, you're just an old peanut-butter sandwich." But she means it in a really hurtful way.

Miss Green: It doesn't matter. It's the thought that counts, the intent!

Miss Fleming: But the words still need to be forbidden because they are awful!

Miss Green: But so is 'peanut-butter sandwich' if it is said the same way!

Mod: Well, how do we teach people to be loving even when they don't feel like it? Isn't that the root of the issue?

Miss Green: Why not charts?

Mod: As the government, I am a little resistant to charts. I have charts for school schedule, for Girl Scouts, for chores, for school assignments, for science fair, etc., etc. I do not need another chart to look after.

Miss Green: The citizens could do it.

Mod: Are you saying that every citizen would have to submit to keeping a chart?

Miss Green: I'm saying that every citizen should find something like this that will work best for them, and keep track of how many times we say words like this. I'm sure there are other ways besides charts.

Mod: My question is, would each citizen be required to do this?

Miss Green: Yes.

Miss Fleming: I don't like charts. Charts are awful.

Mr. Kermit: I agree with Miss Green.

Mod: Miss Fleming, do you have any other ideas, or any other thoughts to share with us?

Miss Fleming: I don't think there should be any charts. I like the jar suggestion, except I think that whenever we *stop* ourselves from saying a bad word, we should put a coin in the jar. Bigger than a dime.

Mod: So you are saying that you think putting money in when you say a bad word is a form of reward and not punishment.

Miss Fleming: Yes. And then when we fill up the jar, we get to take it and do something fun.

Mod: Okay, we didn't reach consensus on this one. 'Consensus' is when a group as a whole comes to a position about something. Our time is up, so let's continue discussing this later.

We eagerly welcome questions and comments, and would especially appreciate help on this one. It is hard for us to look at this question from a civil government perspective rather than a parent/child/siblings perspective. For instance, as a citizen I know that I don't want to limit free speech any more than absolutely necessary, but as a mother, I do not want my kids saying certain things, or using derogatory tones of voice, and I am willing to forbid it.

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