Academic Free Speech Freefall

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

free speech photoIt is one of the many ironies of our modern age that one of the places that the first amendment is designed to benefit—the academy—is so maladroit in using it.

“What, exactly, is the tension between antiracism and free speech?” Yale philosopher Jason Stanley asks in The Chronicle Review. “If I tell you that you shouldn’t say racist things, am I really denying you the right to say those things?”

“I told my mother the other day that she shouldn’t tell me that I am overweight. Was I challenging her freedom of speech? I tell students in my mathematical logic class they shouldn’t make certain errors. Is my class a hotbed of illiberalism? Is free speech really imperiled when activists argue that a football team shouldn’t be called ‘the Redskins’?” If you’re waiting for him to provide clear answers to these questions, don’t hold your breath while doing so.

“All year, the charge of imperiling free speech has been used to silence oppressed and marginalized groups and to push back against their interests,” he writes in his penultimate paragraph. “Shockingly, this misuse of free speech is defended, explicitly and repeatedly, by absurd arguments that place freedom of speech in opposition to social justice, activism, and even liberalism.”

“Students subjected to this misshapen conception of freedom of speech would be well within their rights to resist, on grounds of basic plausibility.” Be careful what you ask for, professor, they might apply that test to their entire college curricula.

Photo by sjgibbs80

Photo by sjgibbs80