Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Literature Review #4: Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of the American Debate

Unlearning Liberty:  Campus Censorship and the End of the American Debate
Greg Lukianoff

Citation: Lukianoff, Greg.  Unlearning Liberty:  Campus Censorship and the End of the American Debate  New York, NY: Encounter Books, 2014.  Print.

Key Terms and Ideas: First Amendment, liberty, free speech, censorship, college campuses, 

Lukianoff is a self-proclaimed hippie and liberal Democrat who takes on the task of fighting against the suppression of free speech on college campuses.  It is unique that Lukianoff is the president of FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) since, as he states in the introduction to his book, those who take on this issue are typically conservatives, perhaps because, "you are far more likely to get in trouble on campus for opposing, for example, affirmative action, gay marriage, and abortion rights than you are for supporting them" (5).
Lukianoff begins by explaining the importance of free speech for maintaining a peaceful, prosperous society.  He admits that "the road to censorship is always paved with good intentions,"  but draws on classic philosophical text, case study examples, and empirical evidence to demonstrate why censorship of even "wrong" ideas only causes more problems (28).   

"Most campuses still cling to speech codes and other restrictions on expression that violate First Amendment principles, seemingly without understanding that these policies not only chill speech but also teach students that an open exchange of ideas might not really be such a good thing...creating the impression that freedom of speech is somehow the enemy of social progress...encouraging the human tendency to live within our own echo chambers. (5)"

"The mind rebels at the thought it might be wrong, and overcoming this natural defensive resistance requires constant, rigorous practice in challenging our opinions by leaving our comfort zones.  Higher education is supposed to serve this function, but omnipresent speech codes and punishment of controversial viewpoints do the opposite...colleges are holding back their students' intellectual development. (11)"

"I cannot emphasize enough the importance of comedy, satire, and parody to the whole process of experimenting with ideas (26)."

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