When people think of America, the first thought is freedom. Freedom has defined America for a long time, but over time, people have twisted the definition into what fits their personal interests. The government would like for all citizens to be alike because it is easier to control. “We strive to be like all our brother men, for all men must be alike” (Rand). Everyone must act the same and be like the rest of the community, otherwise it would be a threat to the superior. This thought has been shown through citizens losing freedom in schools, profession choices and behavior.
Even today, there are still restrictions on the people’s freedom. This is being shown through many schools throughout the country. Forcing students to wear a school uniform is a direct violation to the first Amendment. Students have a right to free speech and therefore should be able to express themselves in creative ways. Tyler Harper were a t-shirt on Gay-Straight Alliance day to school. He was taken out of class and told to put his shirt inside out. (T-Shirt Slogans). Harpers shirt was intended to express his own religious beliefs, the school administration had no rights to take him away from that and he later sued the school for this. Studies have shown that students at schools that do not have dress codes tend to perform higher in subjects than students at schools where uniforms are mandatory. Critics supporting school uniforms say that students foster school spirit. Instead, it has been shown that forcing students to wear school uniforms only causes resentment towards their schools (School Uniforms).
Another way that schools have restricted students freedoms is the expression of religion in public schools. The school districts believe that if one expresses their religion at school, then it is trying to turn everyone to that religion. But students and teachers should be free to show their beliefs and let others decide for themselves about what they personally believe. An article says, “Phil Bryant, governor of Mississippi, explained in 2013 that his state’s new law permits students to lead prayers at school functions is intended not to establish or promote religion in classroom but is rather ‘about making sure that we protect the religious freedoms of all students and adults whenever we can’”(Religion in Public). It is important to protect people’s rights to free speech as much as possible. Schools allowing students and staff to openly exhibit religious believes is to promote moral values encouraging students to do the right things. Opponents argue that in cases where religious practices and inserted in schools, it is almost always from a Christian perspective. (Religion in Public). Although, there has been many instances where there are practices of other religions in schools, and they are respected and listened to.
Having the freedom in choosing one’s own profession is something very important. It ensures that one will have the job that they will be happy doing and also what they are skilled at. If we do not have a choice, then nobody would grow up having dreams and goals that they are set out to achieve. In the book Anthem, it quotes, “Dare not choose in your minds the work you would like to do when you leave the Home of the Students. You shall do that which the Council of Vocations shall prescribe for you” (Rand). Equality 7-2521 is talking about what his teacher had told him throughout school. He says no one is allowed to choose what they do with their lives. Even dreaming about what they would like to do when they grow up is forbidden. That would make individuals capable of distinguishing and separating themselves from the rest of the community, which is unacceptable. Everyone is devoted to sameness and equality with their brothers. In doing this, no one can outshine anyone else. In this book, Equality-72521 is punished to be a Street Sweeper. He is punished because of his intelligence and loving of science. He would serve his society much better as a Scholar, but he would stick out too much over the rest of the community because of his great gifts. He was shamed throughout school because of his extreme intelligence. Equality-72521 stood out tremendously from the rest of the students, and the council did not like this, and therefore made him a Street Sweeper instead. Although having the government pick our jobs for us will be sure we have good number in each job market, nobody would go into what they are extraordinarily at and therefore we would not have people who are amazing at their job, only average.
We as a society have been shown examples of what it would be like if the government had complete control over us. In the book Divergent, each fraction has different morals and certain standards that each person is permitted to follow. Every member is trained to not only act the way the government wants, but to also think the way they supposed to in order for the leaders to keep them under control (Roth 441-442). In doing this, each member is predictable and will never do something against the government if they think in the same ways. In the very beginning of the book it says, “Faction customs dictate even idle behavior and supersede individual preference. I doubt all the erudite want to study all the time, or that every candor enjoys a lively debate, but they can’t defy the norms of their factions any more than I can”(Roth 9). This quote shows how without exception, members have to follow society’s norms in their factions.
Otherwise, everything would begin to unravel. Those known as Divergent, are a threat to the leaders, “‘Among other things, you…you are someone who is aware, when they are in a simulation, that what they are experiencing is not real,’ she says. ‘Someone who can then manipulate the simulation or even shut it down. And also…’ She leans forward and looks into my eyes. ‘Someone who, because you are also Dauntless…tends to die.’”(Roth 257). The Divergents are people who are more aware than others. They possess each quality of the factions which makes them very dangerous. They are unique and more curious than others, this therefore threatens the leader. They feel that if people are curious about things, it will lead to things being exposed that they would rather not be. In the book Anthem, there are many examples showing how everyone has to fit into the certain criteria that is set. “We cannot look upon International 4-8818 4-8818 and not smile in answer. For this they were not liked in the Home of the Students, as it is not proper to smile without reason” (Rand). International 4-8818 is apparently a naturally happy person, who is capable of spreading happiness to others. But society is so tightly controlled that one is not even allowed to be happy “without reason”. Although, everyone is supposed to be happy, no one is allowed to be happier than others. Whenever one individual is happier, that is always a danger.
Individuals have no identity of their own. They’re not allowed to act as individuals, or to think of their lives as unique and self-guided. No one has any purpose of living besides for the community as a whole. They live to serve the community, and it is only because of their service that they are allowed to live. Whereas everyone being equal can seem like a good thing, when it comes down to it people standing out above the rest of societies norm results in amazing things. With this we have discovered many new things that would not have been discovered without allowing people to think outside the box.
To conclude, it is very important to let citizens be free to express themselves. People need their freedom of choice in order to figure out who they are as an individual. Something as simple as their clothing can lead to greater things one would never realize, such as their passions and beliefs that mold into their future. When people choose their own professions and religions, they choose what they are good at and passionate about. This is how we have people that are great at what they do, instead of average. Therefore, we have to have freedom in schools, profession choices, and behavior in order to grow to do amazing things.
- ‘Religion in Public Schools: Does Religion Have A Place in Public Schools?’ Issues & Controversies, Infobase Learning, 29 Apr. 2013, http://icof.infobaselearning.com/recordurl.aspx?ID=6305. Accessed 29 Jan. 2019.
- Rand, Ayn. Anthem. Signet, 1995.
- Roth, Veronica. Divergent. HarperCollins Publishers, 2014.
- ‘School Uniforms: Should public schools require uniforms?’ Issues & Controversies, Infobase Learning, 24 Feb. 2016, http://icof.infobaselearning.com/recordurl.aspx?ID=1999. Accessed 25 Jan. 2019.
- ‘T-Shirt Slogans and Free Speech.’ Issues & Controversies, Infobase Learning, 27 Apr. 2007,http://icof.infobaselearning.com/recordurl.aspx?ID=10547. Accessed 31 Jan. 2019.