Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate
On college campuses across the country students are increasingly encountering speech and behavior codes. Students who violate these codes, often unwittingly, can face severe disciplinary action or even expulsion. For more than a decade, FIRE has fought to preserve students' rights to free speech, due process, freedom of conscience, and legal equality. In his new book, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, FIRE president Greg Lukianoff discusses some of FIRE's most memorable cases and makes an impassioned plea for freedom of speech and due process on college campuses. If we don't teach our children the value of free and open intellectual debate in our institutions of higher education, Lukianoff asks, then when will they ever learn?
But some see college campuses as important safe havens—unique areas where people of all backgrounds can be free from feelings of exclusion. Perhaps college campuses should not be bastions of freedom, but rather communities of inclusion. With so many forces in the world belittling people for who they are, why should college campuses allow this same type of exclusionary behavior?
For over a generation, shocking cases of censorship at America’s colleges and universities have taught students the wrong lessons about living in a free society. Drawing on a decade of experience battling for freedom of speech on campus, First Amendment lawyer Greg Lukianoff reveals how higher education fails to teach students to become critical thinkers: by stifling open debate, our campuses are supercharging ideological divisions, promoting groupthink, and encouraging an unscholarly certainty about complex issues.
Lukianoff walks readers through the life of a modern-day college student, from orientation to the end of freshman year. Through this lens, he describes startling violations of free speech rights: a student in Indiana punished for publicly reading a book, a student in Georgia expelled for a pro-environment collage he posted on Facebook, students at Yale banned from putting an F. Scott Fitzgerald quote on a T shirt, and students across the country corralled into tiny “free speech zones” when they wanted to express their views.
But Lukianoff goes further, demonstrating how this culture of censorship is bleeding into the larger society. As he explores public controversies involving Juan Williams, Rush Limbaugh, Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins, Larry Summers—even Dave Barry and Jon Stewart—Lukianoff paints a stark picture of our ability as a nation to discuss important issues rationally. Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate illuminates how intolerance for dissent and debate on today’s campus threatens the freedom of every citizen and makes us all just a little bit dumber.