History Research Fellow Gordon Danning joins our staff as part of FIRE’s new Speech, Outreach, Advocacy, and Research (SOAR) project, where he’ll be researching the relationship between speech and violence.
“I decided to come to FIRE because freedom of expression has always been important to me. It was just how I was raised,” Gordon said. “I was a sophomore in high school when the Nazis marched in Skokie, and I recall supporting their right to do so, just as a court later ruled. When I was in law school, I wrote a law review article on the free speech rights of high school students. So, FIRE is pretty much a natural for me.”
Gordon attended the University of California, Berkeley, for both his undergraduate studies and law school. After law school, Gordon taught social studies for more than 15 years at a public high school in Oakland, California in lieu of practicing law—an experience that taught him about the need for a multifaceted approach to protecting student speech.
“California has laws that are very protective of student speech, but in practice, it seemed that administrators didn’t know about the laws, or didn’t understand them,” he said. “It is not enough to have laws on the books. There also needs to be an ethos of respect for the principle of free speech, and also for the notion that even the most strongly held views might turn out to be mistaken or subjective.”
In 2012, Gordon relocated to the East Coast to study and research political violence at the graduate level at The Graduate Center at the City University of New York. Now, he brings his unique perspective and expertise to FIRE.
“What I like best about my job here at FIRE is the intellectual challenge of attempting to analyze whether there is a causal relationship between so-called hate speech and violence. There is a great deal of uncertainty and contingency surrounding the study of violence in general, and I find that intellectually exciting.”
We look forward to seeing what your research uncovers, Gordon. Welcome to FIRE.