PROF GIORDANO: TikTok Debate Sparks a Civic Awakening

We live in an America where the threat of losing access to an app like TikTok can incite greater outrage than the government’s encroachment upon our most basic liberties

Nicholas Giordano is a professor of Political Science, the host of The P.A.S. Report Podcast, and a fellow at Campus Reform’s Higher Education Fellowship. With 2 decades of teaching experience and over a decade of experience in the emergency management/homeland security arena, Professor Giordano is regularly called on to speak about issues related to government, politics, and international relations.

As a professor of political science for nearly 20 years, this week was one of the most interesting in any of my classrooms. The topic of the day? The looming threat of a TikTok ban. On March 13, the House passed a bill that would lead to a nationwide ban of the app. It now moves to the Senate where it faces an uncertain future. Throughout the country, there has been a massive mobilization of young Americans to thwart the passage of the bill. It appears that young people have learned more about civic engagement in one week from TikTok than they have over the span of at least 13 years within the education system – a damning indictment of our schools. 

Every semester, I teach my students the importance of civic obligations and the role they play within the system. Prior to my course, most of my students were unaware they could contact members of Congress to influence the legislative process, so I knew this topic would spark interest amongst them. It also helps that they are within the demographic whose lives revolve around the app.  

When I asked the students how many use TikTok, nearly 90% of them raised their hands. Students who had been silent throughout the semester sprang to life, offering their thoughts on the subject. Some argued a ban would be unconstitutional, others said it is a form of censorship and an attack on free speech, and only a few believe a ban is necessary.

Throughout the discussion, it became clear that we live in an America where the threat of losing access to an app like TikTok can incite greater outrage than the government’s encroachment upon our most basic liberties. I drew attention to the contrast between the fervent response to a potential TikTok ban and their generation’s willingness to surrender their God-given rights to the government. 

Many troubling surveys reflect the youth’s eagerness to grant the government more power and control over our lives. In a survey conducted by the Campaign for Free Speech, 59% of respondents aged 18-34, agreed with the statement that “the First Amendment goes too far in allowing hate speech in modern America and should be updated to reflect the cultural norms of today.” 50% believe that hate speech should be illegal, and 63% believe the government should take action against the press if they publish content that is biased, inflammatory, or false.

Other surveys reveal that nearly one-third of Gen Z respondents support home surveillance cameras, despite Fourth Amendment privacy rights, and 36% favor a repeal of the Second Amendment. While this does not constitute a majority, it cannot be dismissed as merely a fringe group of people.

The entire debate reflects the failures of our educational institutions. These institutions place greater emphasis on social justice propaganda than on grounding students with a deep understanding and an appreciation of individual liberties, limited government, the Constitution, and civic responsibility. It is why they remained so passive while government officials robbed two years of their lives through lockdowns and school closures.

We must restore critical thinking skills, civic responsibility, and an appreciation for individual liberties throughout our education system from kindergarten through college. Only then can we empower future generations to advocate for their rights with the same passion demonstrated for TikTok. Only then can we ensure that the misplaced priorities revealed in this debate are addressed, and our Constitutional Republic remains vibrant and resilient in the face of evolving challenges. If we want to safeguard individual liberties for future generations, we can no longer be bystanders as our education system collapses.

“The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.” – James Madison