Over the summer, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff sat down for an interview with TheBestSchools.org, an independent organization dedicated to covering issues in higher education and empowering individuals with a wide variety of resources to make prudent decisions regarding career and educational opportunities. The interview covers Greg’s early influences motivating his work in the First Amendment and civil liberties, his inspiration for writing Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate and the book’s central themes, and how Greg sees the future of higher education.
Here is a preview of Greg’s interview:
TBS: We found your book, Unlearning Liberty, to be frankly inspiring. It not only documents a large number of astonishing abuses, it also models throughout what civility in public discourse ought to be—through its fairness, its scholarly care, and above all its calm and even tone, which is maintained throughout, even when rising occasionally to genuine eloquence. Could you start by telling us what your chief aim was in writing the book?
GL: Thank you for your kind words about the book! I knew writing a book would be a challenge, but it was even more challenging than I expected.
I wrote the book for a number of reasons. First, I wanted a place to gather and relay a sampling of the shocking cases of censorship and violations of basic rights on campus I’ve seen in my decade with FIRE. I needed one place to demonstrate the scope and scale of the problem and, even though I only cover a tiny percentage of the cases I have seen over the years, I don’t think any reader would say I was short on examples.
Second, I aimed to explain why this matters, not only on campus, but also in how it affects our entire society. And finally, I wrote the book to raise awareness about the issue of censorship on college campuses and about FIRE. The kind of cases we deal with on a daily basis at FIRE should be well known in every household in the United States, but, sadly, they are not. Unfortunately, these days the media pay too little attention to stories of censorship that would have been front-page news to an earlier generation.
This wide-ranging interview provides an incisive analysis of the origins and implications of the censorship movement in higher education and highlights a number of cases demonstrating ‘unlearning liberty’ in an engaging video format.
Check out the full interview here.
Chronicle of Higher Education critic-at-large Carlin Romano praises FIRE President Greg Lukianoff’s book, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, in a piece published in “The Chronicle Review” today. Romano writes that the book is “underappreciated” and provides a big-picture view of how American universities stifle speech in the name of comfort and preventing offense.
Reflecting on his classroom, Romano, professor of philosophy at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania, has seen the benefits of the kind of robust, uninhibited debate Lukianoff calls for in Unlearning Liberty:
Over the spring, listening to my students debate gay marriage, prostitution, polyamory, monogamy, loyalty, love at first sight, and enough fetishes to shock a stadium full of anxious parents, I came to understand something crucial: Allowing students to speak without fear, without concerns about being immediately sanctioned (as opposed to criticized) for a bad choice of words, or unpopular conviction, or dumb joke, provoked divergent voices and changed many minds.
The whole review can be read here.
The Humanist Magazine interviews FIRE President Greg Lukianoff about ‘Unlearning Liberty‘ in its May/June volume. In this extensive interview, Greg unpacks the major themes of the book. Here is a preview:
The Humanist: One of the things you lament in your book is that differences of opinion are no longer viewed as opportunities to learn or as chances to think through ideas. Please say more about that.
Lukianoff: Speech codes and changed attitudes about freedom of speech have created all of these negative feedback loops for expression and critical thinking. As you censor unpopular opinions you end up with classroom environments where individuals can’t really speak their minds. You also end up with students mostly talking to people they already agree with. The research on this is very strong—when you talk to people you already agree with, it thwarts development of critical thinking skills, and it makes people much more confident in what they already believe. It tends to make people more adamant, and exacerbates the serious problem of groupthink.
The whole interview can be read here or in the May/June print edition of The Humanist.
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.