By Tarini Venkat (Correspondent)
This year, like many other years in the past, Sharon High School is following the long tradition of competing in the 2017-2018 Latino and African American Tenacity Challenge.
It’s an annual academic scholarship challenge that consists of teams of at most six, and they compete in four challenges- Science and Math Quiz Bowl Challenge, Latino and African-American Literature Response Challenge, History Quiz Bowl Challenge, and the Tenacity Mural Challenge. Each member of the first place team will win a $1,000 scholarship; second place, a $500 scholarship; and third place, a $300 scholarship.
Last year’s Tenacity Mural Challenge is the ‘Black Lives Matter’ banner currently hanging up outside the cafeteria.
This year, the theme is Free Speech vs Hate Speech. Two teams from Sharon High School are competing, ‘Unapologetically Black’ and ‘WE’RE HERE 2’, and the final event is going to be in Bedford High School on March 24th. The required reading book for this is Monster by Walter Dean Myers, a bestselling book about a teenage boy in juvenile detention.
Librarian Mrs. Collins, who is one of the coordinators, says that it’s her fourth year working with the students, and she is excited. “Historically, we’ve done really well in the Art Category. We’ve always had good luck with the murals.” she said.
Sophomore Lereca Rodrigues, who’s participating in this challenge for the first time, says it’s a better experience so far than she thought it would be,
“I feel like the only reason it’s good is because of my teammates, especially Yani. She’s a big help in my group. We make sure we’re always on task and do everything we have to do. I’m not doing much work but math and science, but being on the team is good because it’s bring me closer with my teammates and we go compete.”
She added that she likes how they learn new things from new people they meet at through the challenge.
In a Skype call with the Tenacity teams and Dr. Adam Maksl, professor of Journalism at Indiana University Southeast, about the legal aspects and implications of the First Amendment and how it relates to the theme.
“When a small group of people have an opinion, that’s what the amendment is designed to protect. The speech that’s allowed sometimes makes people cringe, because [the law] is designed to protect fringe opinions. If we really believe in a marketplace of ideas, than we have to have a lot of ideas,” said Maksl.
Although he also said that we don’t want restrictions on free speech to cause people to self-censor, there’s one are not protected by free speech is “true threats”. For example, racist chants during a march would be constitutionally protected, but burning a cross in front of somebody’s house is not.
“Mere advocacy of violence doesn’t make it unprotected. It’s incitement that makes it unprotected. We have to look at the history of the person and ask ‘did the people listen to that person?’” he added.
Senior Makailyn Jones says she thinks it’s really relevant and timely in today’s political climate, particularly with the Black Lives Matter poster that’s gotten a lot of attention.
“This past election hasn’t been the smoothest and I think it’s important to draw a line -however difficult it may be- between hate speech and free speech, even if they correspond.” she said.
“Opinions we are passionate about have a way of causing us to disregard boundaries.” she added.