This is what most alumni of the college and almost the general public understand, at the moment – open speech is under attack in higher education, and for decades. The culture of freedom of speech has rapidly declined in pedagogy, and the corridor of acceptable opinions has been uncomfortably narrowed, with demands for not allowing speakers of unpopular opinions on campus in strong calls for the dismissal of controversial professors.
Both faculty and students are clearly noticing that specific opinions are not expressed unless you are willing to risk consequences ranging from mild social stigma to insults or even direct rejection. It is hardly surprising that the results of that survey reveal high rates of high-censorship both on campus and outside the United States.
Although college and undergraduate school-level speech censorship is widespread and well documented, we find ourselves facing even more troubling problems: this same limited culture, with its oppressive compatibility demands, has already been filtered to young students. Recent college graduates এখন now new teachers-are bringing these acquired academic habits and expectations to American high, middle, and even elementary school.
It is a matter for college students or faculty to choose to censor their own personal views, but what happens when children first adopt the ideal of self-silence before they have the opportunity to develop thoughtful, informed opinions? Among adults as harmful as a censorship culture, who can predict harm and potential harm, when children are not allowed to create their own position emotionally independently?
It’s hard to imagine the internal gymnastics needed to distort the newborn – for those of us who went to American school in another era – when cultural rules respect freedom of thought, respect for conscience, and even encourage a certain amount of enthusiastic, rebellious debate. Thoughts are acceptable, permissible, and such restrictions will impose on intellectual growth and personal development. (Polish author Czeslaw Milosz in his Nobel Prize-winning book offers a detailed, annoying test of the distorted thought processes produced under authoritarian pressure. The Captive Mind.) Perhaps, at a minimum, understanding and self-awareness will stagnate. Precise reasoning and internal contradictions will be unchallenged. Students who are not allowed to explore subjects thoroughly, vigorously and honestly will only gain a shallow, simple understanding of difficult, subtle subjects. Extrapolating from individuals across an entire society, it is difficult to calculate the decline that this means for a free society.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIER), where I work, fights to protect the First Amendment and other constitutional rights of students and faculty on the American College campus, as the ban on open conversation degrades students’ academic experience and violates faculty alone. Working in this field year after year, it has made it abundantly clear that many students who came to campus with anti-speech attitudes developed well before matriculation. Acknowledging that it will be difficult to win this battle without tackling generosity at a young age, Fire expands its mission and I join in launching its high school outreach program in 2018. K-12 Academics and Materials.
Because the K-12 Arena is dramatically different from higher education িত its underlying purpose and the structure of its student organization from work এটি it needs to communicate awareness of the larger limitations of teacher discourse, respect for minors ’natural weaknesses, and their parental rights. A valuable asset to Greg Lukianoff, President and CEO of Fire, outlines 10 principles that empower the American mind and oppose thought reform in K-12 education. His first principle – “no obligation, thought or belief” – reminds us of the important precedent we set. West Virginia State Board of Education v. Burnett And re-affirms the fundamental rights of students, that they will not be compelled to salute or genuflecting for reasons or ideas.
Inside Barnett, Written for the court by Justice Robert H. Jackson, warned against using public education as a tool for political inspiration:
Free public education, if faithful to the principles of secular instruction and political neutrality, will not be biased or hostile to any class, religion, party or sect. If any ideological discipline is imposed, then, each party or community must control, or fail, to weaken the influence of the education system. Adherence to the limitations of the Constitution will not weaken the government in the appropriate case for its implementation.
This series of blog posts will examine ways in which attempts to shortchain K-12 students, undermine their education, interfere with school-home trust and communication, and erode community support. More importantly, it will lead to solutions and forward paths.
Although we will have competitive ideas on exactly how, and exactly what, in our primary and secondary institutions, we can rely on common (short “l”) liberal principles to manage our decision-making processes and governance. A democratic society needs open discussion on this essential issue.