Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate was selected for this week’s “Book Talk” feature on the American Constitution Society’s (ACS’) website. As part of the feature, Greg wrote an article detailing some of the most memorable cases he’s seen in his 11 years fighting against censorship on college campuses with FIRE, ranging from “the absurd to the serious.” He talks extensively about the Hayden Barnes case, which opens the book, as one of both the most absurd and the most serious examples of campus censorship run amok.
Greg also discusses why campus censorship is an important issue. In particular, he notes how students internalize bad intellectual habits as a result of campus policies that punish students for “offending” others in the course of debate. This trend threatens all of us, Greg argues, as these habits accompany graduates into the real world, where they are increasingly enclosing themselves in “cyber realms of like-mindedness” and ideologically homogenous neighborhoods.
Pay our friends over at ACS a visit and check out Greg’s article!
The Hoover Institution’s journal, Defining Ideas, offered a ringing endorsement of Greg’s book, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, in a recent review:
His lively book is at once a relentless exposure of the intellectual intolerance institutionalized in higher education, and a passionate defense of the value of free thought and expression.
Defining Ideas reviews numerous examples from the book and concludes that universities are often not the “marketplace of ideas” they sometimes publicly claim to be.
Harry Lewis of Harvard College in his blog, Bits and Pieces, offers praise to Greg and Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate for its important civic lessons:
Lukianoff takes the time to go back to first principles. The reason free speech is important is because debate is important, and the reason debate is important is that it is the key tool of deliberative democracies. If we don’t train our students to argue with each other, without crying foul every time one side hurts the other’s feelings, we will wind up with … a dysfunctional Congress, maybe? So the book’s mission is fundamentally civic, and I applaud it for that reason.
Greg took to the pages of The Wall Street Journal this weekend with an op-ed titled “Campus Clampdowns on Free Speech Flunk Their Legal Tests.” Greg writes about the recent decision by a federal jury in Georgia to hold a former college president personally liable for $50,000 for violating the Constitutional rights of student Hayden Barnes, and discusses how, thanks to legal factors and five years of work by FIRE, this case may help end the decades-long scandal of speech codes on our nation’s college campuses. Those that have read Unlearning Liberty will recall that the story of Barnes’ case was what Greg used to open up the book.
In celebration of the hundredth issue of its journal, Academic Questions, the National Association of Scholars has published an article from the journal online titled “One Hundred Great Ideas for Higher Education.” Greg was invited to submit one of these hundred ideas, and his suggestion was that colleges should teach the habit of debate. Why?
This simple practice is essential to overcoming “confirmation bias” and parochialism. The modern academy teaches students through word and, more powerfully, through example, the exact opposite of independent thought. Students and professors report that it is not “safe” to “hold unpopular views on campus,” and research indicates that a strong relationship exists between one’s level of education and the number of dissenting viewpoints encountered: Those with the least education talk to the greatest number of people with whom they disagree, while those with the highest level of education talk to the lowest.
Greg has more in the article, so please take a look.