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New Essay by FIRE’s Greg Lukianoff Cautions Against Students’ ‘Expectation of Confirmation’

By June 16, 2015

Today, we are pleased to announce the release of a new essay by FIRE President and CEO Greg Lukianoff in the recently published The State of the American Mind: 16 Leading Critics on the New Anti-Intellectualism, a collection of essays by a variety of cultural and educational experts edited by Mark Bauerlein and Adam Bellow. The essays are framed by Bauerlein and Bellow’s theories on the root causes of the decline of the American intellect and “the shift away from the self-reliant, well-informed American.”

Greg’s essay, entitled “How Colleges Create the ‘Expectation of Confirmation,’” describes how college students are increasingly believing they not only have a “right not to be offended,” but a stricter “right to have [their] views confirmed.” Greg cites many examples of students’ growing intolerance for opinions they disagree with, including their refusal to engage in classroom debate and efforts to “disinvite” campus speakers like New York City police commissioner Ray Kelly and former World Bank president Robert Zoellick. (To see the full range of disinvitation attempts from across the political spectrum, check out FIRE’s 2014 report).

Greg explores how this “expectation of confirmation” not only worsens the intellectual atmosphere on campus, but also America’s broader problem of political polarization. He writes:

Indeed, colleges today instill in students an unrealistic expectation that their environment should conform to their existing biases and beliefs. As they do so, young people earning college degrees fail to recognize that they inhabit a pluralistic society made up of individuals and groups with discrete and sometimes conflicting interests and outlooks, and when they encounter opposing forces, they judge them as wrongheaded or worse and act toward their suppression.

Greg expanded further on the idea of an “expectation of confirmation” in his book Freedom From Speech.

Those who are interested in reading Greg’s full essay can purchase The State of the American Mind in hardcover and Kindle format at Amazon.com.