Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Campaign signs at a public school

I walked past Venable School today, a Charlottesville public school, and I was intrigued at the signs I saw. Because Venable School is a public school, is it appropriate that these campaign signs were being displayed? I recognize that my thinking is in a minority. In my experience, most people don't think about freedom of speech in this way. People often think they have a right to something that depends on other people, like health care or education, so why would this be any different? Most probably wouldn't take issue with this, but would fail to consider or care that they're funding this speech. The signs I initially noticed were all for Democrats, but when I turned the corner, I noticed there were some Republican signs as well. This guarantees that every citizen is funding speech they don't agree with. Now, a Democrat or Republican might be fine with this because they get their sign, even if the opposition does as well, but what about those of us who don't endorse either party? Property set aside for a specific use with public funding is being used for speech that some taxpayers don't agree with.

We could allow anyone to put up any sign advocating anything from anyone, but the institution of public schooling is justified on the premise of using public funding for a specific purpose. If we accept this premise, there are other important parallels. We wouldn't expect any taxpayer to be able to freely use government buildings as they please, because government buildings are set aside for a specific use. Right now, it seems that if we're in the business of setting aside public funds for the specific use of education, then we shouldn't grant special privileges for anyone. It doesn't much matter to me that the school itself is a polling place.

An important point underlying all of this is that if these signs at the polling place have any effect at all on actual voting, we're all doomed.

I guess we're all doomed.

1 comment:

JMPeronto said...

Great post Seth -- you pose a very interesting question regarding the blurred line in public/private entities.