This article appeared in The Huffington Post.
Two and a half years ago, I announced here on The Huffington Post my intention to write a book. In one week, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate will finally hit bookshelves across the country.
When I announced the book–delightfully enough, coinciding with the launch of The Huffington Post College–I explained I wanted to explore the bizarre world of campus censorship, speech zones, and speech codes that has defined more than a decade of my career. Some of the cases in the book might be familiar to you because I’ve written about them here, like the story of Keith John Sampson, a student at IUPUI who was punished for publicly reading a book, and of Hayden Barnes, a student at Valdosta State University who was expelled for a pro-environment collage he posted on Facebook. Other cases I discuss in the book never received the full attention I believe they deserved, like a crazy program at Michigan State University that is truly worthy of the overly-abused term “Orwellian.”
But I also said I wanted to explore the broader theme of how these abuses affect us all–not just those living within the college and university communities where these rights violations take place.
In exploring this theme, I proposed two arguments. The first forms the basis for the name of the book: That students are “unlearning liberty” as a result of omnipresent speech codes and administrators who, through their actions, lead students to believe that censorship is not just acceptable but is also what enlightened and honorable people are supposed to do. The second argument I make is that while higher education is supposed to serve as society’s “sophistication machine,” making us smarter, more nuanced thinkers, it simply cannot do that if students are afraid to speak their minds.
And along the way I manage to talk about incidents involving everyone from Jon Stewart to Richard Dawkins to Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher.
In this video, I briefly discuss this main theme. My goal here is to start a conversation and hopefully get people thinking about the threats to what should be our society’s premier “marketplace of ideas.”