Closing the American Mind: Censorship

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I have just finished reading Unlearning Liberty:  Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate by Greg Lukianoff.  This is an incredibly succinct and well documented (plenty of chapter notes) accounting of the disavowal of First Amendment Rights on college campuses. You will be horrified by what you will read.  If you are considering college or currently in college or if you have been to college and wondered what had happened to you during that time then you MUST read this book.  Your First Amendment Rights are everywhere being crushed by the thought police. 

Greg Lukianoff is a self-described liberal, atheist and First Amendment rights attorney.  He is the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).  His book details the censorship going on college campuses for many years now.  As a student your free speech rights may likely have been violated.  Read this very accessible book and find out how this is possible. In fact, anyone who cares about free speech and the First Amendment should absolutely read this book.  I highly recommend it to you.

 Today the graduates of such schools are now the ones most desirous of shutting down free speech:  they will call you “homophobic” or “right-wing nut” or any of a host of dismissive names.  There are “journalists” (and I use that word loosely) who would have you think that there can be no discussion because they have the correct answer and you don’t.  They don’t want to hear from you. There can be no discussion.  This type of censorship emulates exactly what professors and college administrator have been practicing for several years.  This book reveals the unbelievable censorship that has and is now taking place.

 One would think that college and universities would be the one place where a student could hear diverse opinions and then choose the soundest and best ideas to build a premise on. But the opposite is happening.  “Higher education” is clamping down on any thought outside their politically correct viewpoint.  Not good.  And, because of this censorship, students are learning less and less while paying more and more.  They are not learning to think critically. Instead they are taught to whine, to complain, to be outraged.  If they disagree with the campus thought ‘regulations’ then they are told to shut up, sit down and be quiet.  They are then told to wait for the school’s adjudication of the matter by the thought police.  The penalties of non-conformity as you will learn in the book are severe. They are also learning to silence and punish other students who make them angry or hurt their feelings.  “Outrage” is all the rage today on college campuses and also in the politically correct “journalism” of the main stream media.

 From the Introduction, The Dangerous College:

 “It may seem like a paradox, but an environment that squelches debate and punishes the expressions of opinions, in the very institution that is supposed to make us better thinkers, can lead quickly to the formation of polarized groups in which people harbor a comfortable, uncritical certainty that they are right.”

 Sound familiar? From the intro:

 “…The result is a group polarization that follows graduates into the real world.  As the sociologist Diana C. Mutz discovered in her book Hearing the Other Side (2006), those with the highest levels of education have the lowest exposure to people with conflicting points of view, while those who have not graduated from high school can claim the most diverse discussion mates. In other words, those most likely to live in the tightest echo chambers are those with the highest level of education.  It should be the opposite, shouldn’t it?  A good education ought to teach citizens to actively seek out the opinions of intelligent people with whom they disagree, in order to prevent the problem of “confirmation bias.”

 Further:

 “…campus censorship poses both an immediate threat to all of our freedoms not just because free speech is crucial to every other freedom, but also because it teaches students wrong lessons about living in a free society.”

 Is our society polarized?  You bet.  We can thank colleges and universities for a great deal of the divisiveness in our nation today.  There are no longer debates but blatant and intense censorship of differing opinions.  I don’t have to tell you this.  Turn on the main stream media (MSNBC for one) and listen to journalism grads spewing “self-confirming” biased opinions on current issues.  They will shout over the dissenting opinion in order to shut it down.

 Numerous real-life examples of college censorship are presented in Unlearning Liberty.  There are too many to mention here.  So, I will just head over to the Conclusion, Unlearning Liberty and the Knee Jerk Society:

 “Taken together, the threat of punishment for expressing the wrong thoughts, the omnipresence of codes warning students to be careful about what they say, and the politicized, self-serving redefinition of tolerance and civility all reinforce the social pressure to either half-mindedly agree or avoid vigorous debate altogether.  Analysts of higher education have noticed this reticence in the “millennial generation,” but they often characterize it as a historical peculiarity, sometimes attributing it to more “collectivist” ethic that somehow materialized among today’s younger people.  Few have considered that this hesitance to debate had been habituated in part through coercion by those in charge ~ through a perfect storm of feeble free speech rights in K-12 schooling, a lack of meaningful civics education, and a collegiate environment that makes dissent too risky.”

 And finally, from the Conclusion:

 ”Unfortunately, too many educators today are ambivalent about free speech, imagining that if they really did allow all opinions to be expressed, the result would nightmarish landscape of nonstop bigotry and ignorance.  I think this apocalyptic point of view, which masquerades as sophistication, is a childish oversimplification of the actual interaction of people everyday life and especially in an academic setting.  But perhaps more importantly, the advocates of benign censorship fundamentally miss the simple truth that Buddhists have known for millennia:  life is pain.  Most Americans find this statement jarring at first, but when you think about it for even a moment and accept that there is nothing strange or odd about challenges inherent in being alive, life becomes less painful.  As philosophers and popular writers have argued, much of our unnecessary pain comes from our obsession with pain.  The sometimes painful process of intellectual growth and living in the world needs to be accepted, not fled from, and that acceptance needs to be taught.” (emphasis mine)

 Currently the question of our Second Amendment right to own a gun is at the front of American minds.  This is due to the recent shootings of innocent people by mentally ill people.  Subsequently there has been a lot of talk in the media that Obama wants to stop the conversation and pursue strict gun control via Executive Order. Don’t let our rights be taken away.  Read this book and speak up.  Exercise your rights with proper self-government.  Otherwise you may be forced to hand those rights over to those who would gladly have you sit down and shut up.

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Followup:

If you think that your First Amendment rights are being assaulted then check out this website for recourse:  Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)

 Eric Holder and the DOJ’s Unfairness:  prosecuting bullying cases under civil rights laws

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