Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate

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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 ...
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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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
While more than once using the phrase “PC run amok,” and spending a great deal of time on left-liberal bias among academics, first-time author Lukianoff is at pains to separate his book from the garden-variety conservative salvo against higher education. As president of the nonprofit Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, he casts a purposefully wide net over American academe. From a Georgia arts professor censored for parodying the Confederate Stars and Bars, to a Pennsylvania student barred from advocating for gun rights, the cases taken on by FIRE variously appeal to left, right, or hardly anyone at all, as with Colorado professor Ward Churchill, known for supposedly declaring 9/11’s victims “little Eichmanns.” Churchill’s appearance sets the seal on Lukianoff’s First Amendment absolutism, but this legalistic principle, however crucial to his argument, is less central to it than the cause of maintaining free inquiry as higher education’s pre-eminent value. This position drives unabashed criticism—which may split political opinion far more violently than his principled stand on controversial speech—of freshman orientation programs focused on specific issues like social justice and privilege. Lukianoff’s stirring take on higher education as an unrestricted intellectual journey remains free of the bile common to culture war screeds, though some readers may wish he had made his point less repetitiously. (Oct.)
From the Publisher

"Lukianoff is an engaging exposer of the shocking repression of free speech on campus, combining good storytelling with clear principles and a serious purpose with a light touch." — Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, author of The Blank Slate and The Better Angels of Our Nature

"Unlearning Liberty is a must read book for anyone concerned about the constitutional future of our nation." — Nat Hentoff, journalist, author of Free Speech for Me—But Not for Thee

"Here's a book full of sunlight—the best disinfectant for campus censorship." — Jonathan Rauch, guest scholar, Brookings Institution, author of Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought

“Destined to be a classic work on freedom in America.” — Donald Alexander Downs, Alexander Meiklejohn Professor of Political Science, Law, and Journalism, University of Wisconsin-Madison, author of Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus

“American universities have been described as islands of intolerance in a sea of freedom. Unlearning Liberty is a meticulous and inspiring guide on how to liberate the islands!” — Christina Hoff Sommers, resident scholar, American Enterprise Institute, author of The War Against Boys

“Lukianoff argues brilliantly and with wit for the importance of free expression in a society that hopes to produce free human beings rather than craven conformists.” — Daphne Patai, professor, Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, University of Massachusetts Amherst, author of What Price Utopia?

“Unlearning Liberty shows why free speech rights on campus are more important than ever, and how controversy is still a great teacher.” — Mary Beth Tinker, plaintiff in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District

“Beautifully written and powerfully argued … an essential wake-up call!" — Nadine Strossen, Professor of Law, New York Law School, former President, American Civil Liberties Union (1991-2008), author of Defending Pornography: Free Speech, Sex, and the Fight for Women’s Rights

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594036354
  • Publisher: Encounter Books
  • Publication date: 10/23/2012
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 1,025,231
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Greg Lukianoff is an attorney and president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. His writings on campus free speech have appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe, in addition to dozens of other publications. A regular columnist for the Huffington Post, he has frequently appeared on television, including CBS Evening News and Stossel. He received the 2008 Playboy Foundation Freedom of Expression Award and the 2010 Ford Hall Forum’s Louis P. and Evelyn Smith First Amendment Award on behalf of FIRE. Lukianoff is a graduate of American University and Stanford Law School.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Dangerous Collage 1

Campus Censorship: Alive and Thriving

How Campus Censorship Harms Us All

Beginning Our Journey through the Modern College Experience

Chapter 1 Learning All the Wrong Lessons in High School 15

High Schools and Unlearning Liberty

"Seriously, Why Is Free Speech Important Again?"

The Legal Landscape

Beyond the Law: The Grand Philosophy behind Free Speech

Polarization, and the Special Importance of Free Speech in the Internet Age

J. S. Mill and a Warning to Colleges

How the Road to Censorship Is Always Paved with Good Intentions

The Acceptance of Censorship by College Students

A Personal Aside: How Multiculturalism Demands Free Speech

What High School Students (and Parents) Need to Know before They Go to College

Chapter 2 Opening the College Brochure 37

PC Went to War with Free Speech in the 1990s, and Free Speech Lost

Hidden Speech Codes, Everywhere

What Harassment Is Supposed to Mean

A Short Selection of Examples of Abuses of Harassment Codes on Campus

The Department of Education Muddies the Waters

The Harm of Campus Speech Codes That Are "Just on the Books"

The "Silent Classroom"

Speech Codes, Juan Williams, and the Danger of Honest Talk

Chapter 3 The College Road Trip 61

Quarantining Free Speech

Four Factors That Work against Campus Free Speech

The Price of Bureaucracy and Hyperregulation

An Opportunity for Free Speech on Campus?

Chapter 4 Harvard and Yale 77

All Is Not Well at Harvard and Yale

Yale's About-Face on Free Speech

Fraternities at Yale Make Matters Worse for Free Speech

Harvard's Surprising Cluelessness about Free Speech and Free Minds

Pledging Yourself to Oversimplifying Moral Philosophy at Harvard

Larry Summers, and How Playing with Ideas Teaches Us to Talk Like Grownups

Chapter 5 Welcome to Campus! 95


Residence Life: From Hall Monitors to Morality Police

The University of Delaware "Treatment"

"Us versus Them": The Culture War as Here Narrative

Chapter 6 Now You've Done It! The Campus Judiciary 115

The Student Judiciary and the Criminalization of Everything

Violations of Due Process and Free Speech Often Go hand in Hand

Michigan State University's Surreal Inquisition Program

Campus Justice and Sexual Assault

Step One of Doing Away with Due Process in Sex Cases: Redefine Normal Human Interaction as an Offense

Step Two: Lower Due Process Protections (or, How the Federal Government Isn't Helping)

What's at Stake: A Due Process Cautionary Tale out of Ohio

Campus Justice and Unlearning the "Spirit of Liberty"

Chapter 7 Don't Question Authority 137

Oh Yeah, We Actually Mean Don't Question Authority

Campus Authoritarianism versus Sci-Fi Fans

Facebook and the Risks of Online Dissent

War at Peace College and the Spamification of Dissent

Swear at Your Own Risk (a.k.a. Skip This Section If You Can't Abide Cussing)

How State Governments (Often) Aren't Helping

Colleges Need to Teach Students to Question Authority, if Only for Their Own Good: The Penn State Child Rape Scandal

Chapter 8 Student Activities Fair 159

Stiffing Freedom of Association on Campus

Theater Club

Campus Christians

Contrast: The Muslim Students Association at Louisiana State University

Young Americans for Freedom at Central Michigan University and Hostile Takeovers

Christian Legal Society v. Martinez

The Campus Lesbian and Gay Association, and Tolerance for All

The Fallout from Martinez: San Diego State and Vanderbilt

From PETA to Guns: More Causes That Can Land You in Trouble on Campus

Unlearning How to Live with Each Other

Chapter 9 Finally, the Classroom! 185

Mandatory Assumptions and Pleasant Little Lies

Academic Freedom, Free Speech, and Ward Churchill

Mandatory Lobbying for Progressive Causes

The Limits of "Social Justice" Advocacy

"Dispositions" and Political Litmus Tests

"So, Are You Sure I Can Write Whatever I Want in This Assignment?"

Teaching Censorship by Example

Chapter 10 If Even Your Professor Can Be Punished for Saying the Wrong Thing 203

Learning on Eggshells: The Hindley Case at Brandeis

Culture Wars, Censorship, and the Professoriate

Not Letting the Cases Blur Together: The Very Real Consequences of Censorship on Campus

The Outrage Culture, from the Campus to the Real World

Chapter 11 Student Draftees for the Culture War 219

Students Destroying Student Newspapers

Student Government Gone Wild

The "Irvine II": Misunderstanding Free Speech

Student Censorship of the Right

"I Believe in Free Speech ... Except When I Don't Like It": Students Come to Expect Protection from Free Speech

Infecting the Law Schools and Infecting the Law

"Bullying," the "Blame Free Speech First" Attitude, and What It Means for All of Our Liberties

Conclusion: Unlearning Liberty and the Knee-Jerk Society 243

Acknowledgments 247

Notes 249

Index 285

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2012

    Must Read for all political stripes

    An eye-openning book for students about to embark on their college careers as well as their parents. The book documents the erosian of free speech in colleges campuses. As a parent who witnessed radically different free speech experiences in her own college life, it was a humbling to read and realize that our childen do not enjoy or even understand what free speech really means and that, sadly, we are a big part of the problem. It is difficult to envision students of the '60s tolerating creepy "free speech zones" that encompass less than 1% of the college or allowing the power of school administrators to concentrate and grow stronger so that it corrupts and undermines one of the central principles of our American constitution: free speech.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2013

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