In the United States, the First Amendment guarantees, among other assurances, freedom of speech. But the practice of free speech calls for more than the right to be free from the suppression of speech by authority. The First Amendment calls us to action — not to silence others, but to actively seek them out and listen to their ideas. A culture of free speech requires citizens to be brave, to boldly engage with those whose words they find offensive, to hear them out respectfully, and to explain why they disagree.
It is essential to create spaces on our college and university campuses for healthy and productive conversations. Fervent discussion is vital to the success of a robust intellectual community, and colleges and universities must maintain an effective learning environment for their students. In such an environment, controversial conversations can reach their full productive potential. If professors and students, who dedicate their intellectual efforts to the exploration of the world and its many complexities, cannot discuss or even disagree about difficult and uncomfortable topics, who can?
FIRE’s Let’s Talk program provides students with tools to work towards a more intellectually open campus environment.
You can use these tools to construct a group that matches your campus and your participants. Go ahead and experiment! Find ways to make debates fun, and work on techniques that help ensure a collegial environment in which students can feel encouraged to argue for their stances. Remind all participants that everyone will have a chance to make their case, and that healthy discussion requires listening as well as speaking.Let's Talk: Start Up Guide