City Journal’s 10 Blocks podcast has an interesting discussion on the causes of hostility to free speech today on many college campuses. The short answer is there are of course many causes, including ideological, psychological, and cultural.
I think it’s worth a listen given the importance of the issue as well as because North Carolina is the home to so many great colleges and universities. We’ve all seen or read articles about extreme levels of censorship or opposition to speech, but we may not be too familiar with why this is occurring at places that have, at least traditionally, vigorously encouraged the free exchange of ideas.
We’ve all pretty much read about and seen, at least some videos or articles related to campus unrest over disagreements to speech. Many of those instances are what led to H.B. 527 becoming law in North Carolina, with considerable help from Lt. Gov Dan Forest. The law protects the right to different viewpoints and expression on campus and expands the rights to sue when those rights are violated.
The law is a good one but it’s generally not a positive sign when you have to pass laws to protect a right already guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. And, of course, passing laws doesn’t always guarantee enforcement or respect for the rule of law. That’s another reason why I think it’s essential to listen and understand what is causing the breakdown of free speech.
In the podcast, Frank Furedi argues that the emergence of the atmosphere for censorship starts before colleges and universities. He notes that the educational system in the West is oriented towards validation. Students show up on campuses expecting to be validated and “if you don’t validate them then that’s a cultural crime.” He argues for a more holistic education that focuses not just on knowledge or knowing things, but important traits like character and critical thinking.