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Editorial Reviews. Review. "Lukianoff is an engaging exposer of the shocking repression of free Kindle App Ad. Look inside this book. Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate by [Lukianoff, Greg.
Table of contents
- Unlearning Liberty | Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate
- Customer Reviews
- Campus Censorship and The End Of American Debate
- Unlearning Liberty
Certainty, or the presumption that one's beliefs are as perfectly formed as they could possibly be, does indeed pose a dire threat to the freedom of speech.
Unlearning Liberty | Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate
Intellectually speaking, doubt is a far more productive engine of progress and intellectual dynamism than certainty. Though this may sound contradictory, doubt is actually a form of wisdom. If we're going to be honest, we have to admit that all human knowledge is imperfect. Even our best ideas can be improved. It is only by doubting our most cherished beliefs that knowledge-seekers can continue the never-ending search for more and better insights. Conversely, certainty ossifies intellectual progress.
When people feel certain, those folks tend to operate on the false assumption that their beliefs need not-nay, must not! Even worse, certainty has a tendency to inspire rancorous and irresolvable antipathies. Those who are certain in their beliefs tend to be less tolerant of opposing viewpoints and less willing to compromise-lest they be tempted to diverge one iota from their presumptively perfect convictions.
Compromise requires a willingness to cede some amount of intellectual ground to the virtues of opposing viewpoints, whereas certainty rules out all such faithless meanderings. Quite correctly, Lukianoff asserts that an excessive climate of certainty is responsible, both on and off campus, for mobilizing "foot soldiers for a seeming endless culture war" p.
Lukianoff believes-and I happen to agree-that colleges and universities have a special obligation to foster vibrant free speech environments. The purpose of higher education is not to fill anyone's head with certainties. Rather, higher education has an obligation to stimulate skeptical, critical thought. Higher education must not tell students what to think. It should equip students with a better grasp of how to think. Lukianoff points out that colleges and universities are increasingly being judged on their ability to cultivate their students' critical thinking skills.
Critical thinking requires high-level analytical operations that enable individuals to simultaneously hold two opposing ideas in their minds while even-handedly appraising the strengths and weaknesses of each viewpoint. In a complex world that is growing smaller and more crisis-ridden by the day, it will take legions of critical thinkers to steer civilization along the tortuous path to a better, brighter future. Important as critical thinking may be, Lukianoff argues that, these days, higher education institutions are doing little more than giving lip service to critical thinking.
A big part of my larger thesis is that students are learning all the wrong lessons about what it means to live in a free society. Those bad lessons may start as early grade school, get worse in high school, and are then driven home by speech codes, heavy-handed orientation programs, unfair judiciaries, and, primarily, by the bad examples of administrators. There are bad lessons that take place in the classroom, of course; however, those come not only from professors who do not respect rights of free speech or individual conscience, but also from students' seeing professors being punished for what they say both in and outside of class.
TBS : We do not have space here to discuss all the different types of censorship you describe in detail in the book, but could you perhaps briefly relate to us a representative case, in order to give our readers a better idea of the sorts of things that are happening on America's college and university campuses today? The first one is a video called "Silencing U," which includes five examples of terrible cases I highlighted in the book. These example include: a student who was kicked out of college for making a collage protesting a parking garage I use that story to open up my book ; a crazy orientation program that deserves the name brainwashing at the University of Delaware; a professor who stood up to a brazen political litmus test at Brooklyn College; a student who nearly saw his career end after he criticized a member of his school's administration; and, finally, a student who was found guilty of racial harassment just for publicly reading a book.
Campus Censorship and The End Of American Debate
Also, here's another video about a colorful case involving a professor who saw his career threatened after he posted a quote from Joss Whedon's beloved but short-lived sci-fi classic, Firefly :. TBS : Wow! Some of the abuses described in these videos are truly outrageousalmost unbelievable. But if our readers want to know more, we urge them to buy your book, in which you discuss a great many more appalling cases of censorship with great flair, and which is as entertaining as it is troubling.
Your book is primarily intended to convey factual information about the phenomenon of campus censorship, not to analyze the reasons for it, but along the way you make many interesting observations, and we would like now to follow up on some of them.
For example, in several places in the book you mention the ironic fact that contemporary university culture originated in the struggle for free speech back in the s. What do you think are the main factors responsible for this sea change in campus culture over the past half century? TBS : Another very interesting observation you make is the connection between the rise of campus censorship and the explosion of university administration over the past 30 years or soto the point where administrators now outnumber faculty members on many campuses pp. You also mention the near tripling of college tuition over that same time period, and you make the point that what students or their parents are principally buying is not better education, but bloated bureaucracy.
Now, many economists would argue that what is driving this phenomenon is massive government intervention in the form of cheap student loans and other subsidies. Basically, the colleges are setting up the bureaucracies to capture as much of this gushing Federal spigot as they can while it lasts. Obviously, this makes them deeply beholden to Washington. You yourself mention the link between political correctness on campus and the directives handed down by the DOE's Office for Civil Rights, which are directly linked to Federal subsidies pp.
But then, aren't youas a man of the leftcaught in an awful dilemma here? On the one hand, you want the Federal loan programs in order to make higher education available to as many young people as possible. Do you see any way out of this dilemma? When I was a kid there was no tension between being politically liberal and being pro-free-speech. I also don't think people fell back on political descriptions quite as much to explain the entire universe.
As I talk a lot about in my book, however, I do think education is at best not making this political polarization any better, but is likely, in fact, making it much worse. And, of course, that administrative class is responsible for so many of the abuses we see at FIRE. Not really, and for the same reason why I chastise people for when they lump all people on the right side of the spectrum together.
It's not as simple as right vs. TBS : There is another aspect to the Federal student loan imbroglioan economic, but at the same time a moral, one. As you mention in the book, an unfortunate result of the unsustainable bubble we are experiencing in Federal spending on higher education is likely to be armies of students saddled with enormous, undischargeable debts p.
What do you think should be done about this? In what ways would you like to see the current system reformed?
Not every college need be a self-contained city in its own right, and there are lots of downsides associated with the city-state model, not the least of which is a promotion of the idea that universities are the personal fiefdoms of top administrators I refer you back to the case of Hayden Barnes at Valdosta State. My hope is that low-cost competing models will incorporate rigorous debate, writing, and readings skills as the underpinning of education. I believe this can be achieved and I think that we are coming to a saturation point when the consumer students and parents will start to very closely examine the cost and quality of the product which they are offered by higher education, and will start concluding that other alternatives are more attractive.
I have a lot of ideas on what competing models could look like and I think about it often, and I believe that universities will need the threat of competing models in order to get their act together. There is also irony in this, of course, because I do love what college can be at its best, but without competing options universities have no incentive to get their act together. TBS : While reading your book, we were dogged by the terrible thought that the battle for freedom of speech may have already been lostin the hearts and minds of today's students.
What do you think? I list so many examples of truly outrageous violations of students' free speech and due process rights in Unlearning Liberty , but the fact that disturbs me the most is that even in the most egregious cases, it is very rare that either students or professors come to the aid of a friend or colleague whose rights have been violated. The Hayden Barnes case is not just outrageous because the student was kicked out of college for a collage, it's outrageous because, as best I can tell, virtually none of his fellow students or professors raised a finger to help.
And there is scary evidence that a whole generation's attitude about free speech is getting worse.