Freedom of Speech: Why We NEED Academic Freedom – Learn Liberty
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Freedom of Speech: Why We NEED Academic Freedom – Learn Liberty

November 24, 2019

Last year, a writer at Harvard
student newspaper penned a column with the subtitle, let’s give up on
academic freedom in favor of justice. She asked, if our university
community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up
with research that counters our goals? As a professor,
I find this attitude really shocking, especially since this
columnist is not alone. On campuses around the country, people
are arguing that free speech doesn’t apply to ideas they don’t like,
which would inevitably include any idea they broadly deem incompatible
with their beliefs. But think about it, just who would decide which ideas
are allowable in the name of justice. After all, the question, what is justice, is one of the core questions in
political and legal philosophy. It always has been the subject of
heated debate on campus and elsewhere. So it’s disconcerting that some students,
faculty, and administrators think they’re so infallible, as to believe they’ve
already arrived at the absolute truth. What could be more anathema to
the spirit of the university and tolerance than believing that
you have nothing left to learn. This is why academic freedom matters. Academic freedom means the right of
everyone in the academic community to pursue truth and wisdom, and
to reach conclusions according to his or her own rights. Harvard students’ Op-Ed
is symptomatic of much broader trends across
academia in recent decades. We’ve seen speech administrations
establishing speech codes to tell students what they’re allowed to say. And free speech zones to tell them
where they’re allowed to say it. This justification is usually to
create a safe space for learning, but advocates forget that a fundamental
way to learn is to encounter ideas with which you disagree. Encountering an argument you oppose will
either shift your thinking, or broaden and deepen your understanding
of your own beliefs. Either way, such encounters foster
learning and critical thinking. And they help you to grow. But too many people on campus seem afraid to hear opinions that with which they
disagree or which they find offensive. Lectures and
panel discussions are getting cancelled or disrupted because some students have
found the speakers objectionable. This includes speakers from
across the political spectrum. Including Condoleezza Rice,
Janet Napolitano, Charles Murray, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Christine Lagarde,
George Will, and even the Chancellor of the University
of California to name just a few. Such intolerance is harmful because
it undermines the fundamental constitutional and moral right to speak
your mind with intellectual honestly. But it’s especially harmful on
college campuses, where it suffocates the pursuit of truth that necessarily
relies upon vibrant debate and varied research in order to breathe. You can’t have free inquiry if some groups
have been empowered to bully others into thinking like them. As the famous educator,
Alexander Meiklejohn, wrote, to be afraid of an idea, any idea,
is to be unfit for self-government. People who support free speech and
open inquiry need to speak out and organize in order to save
the principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech, which should be
at the heart of any University. It’s time for a new free speech movement.

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  1. there are a lot of bad people out there who want to oppress others. the problem we have is the establishment telling them that they are good people that beloved in the correct type of oppression… as if there were one.

  2. I find it shocking when I hear stories of people who get upset when they hear "triggering" speech or words. It's like having to deal with someone who has an allergy, but it's for something they hear. If you have panic attacks when the subjects of sexual assault and homosexuality come up, I suggest you get help coping with your issue, or find another place to learn. People shouldn't be allowed to censor the world around them, intellectually nerf it, because they don't like a certain subject.

  3. The notion that anything, including your "right" to not be offended or "right" to some form of asinine justice trumps free expression is as insane as the notion that the earth is flat. This is a disgusting ideology but unlike them, I don't want to censor it. 🙂

  4. I agree with the sentiment of this video. But I see this, at least partly, being caused by the commercialization of colleges. This lead to students being regarded as customers rather than the students they are. The other threat it harbors is the need to attract third-party funds, censoring research indirectly.

  5. You don't have the right not to be offended in a free society. Granted, one shouldn't be offending people, but if we ban free speech, we're not free…we would be a authoritarian state.

  6. Apparently Sandra (the Harvard student) is a gender studies major. Why am I not surprised? I'm a moderate, and nothing irritates me more than when leftist morons preach tolerance, except for when they find the ideas proposed to be "offensive." This is so stupid.

  7. Feminists,Marxists,Socialists,Communists and Social Justice Warriors to name a few. The only thing I learned in college is to learn how to waste time and do nothing productive.

  8. Free speech is a derivative of property rights, and no more. If the principals (owners or agents) of Harvard want restrictions to speech (on their prop), so be it. Find your own ground and speak to you heart's content.

  9. Does an individual have any degree of responsibility for what he says? in public? in private? Does speaking the truth or lying have any relevance?

  10. So much truth and wisdom. This is the kind of things that infuriates me all the time.
    And that's also why I have utter contempt for current judiciary and legislative systems.

  11. Free speech is also important in giving you the ability to see what someone is really like – if people cannot freely express their values how would we be able to spot dangerous people? Limiting speech is like walking into the jungle with glasses that make lions invisible… no thanks, I'd rather have the ability to see the predators!

  12. this all may be true but i have humans living in america only ever use the idea "freedom of speech" too wirk for them only when they want it too

  13. I think you guys should leave the source of the information (ideas, graphs, charts, quotes, etc) in the description of the video. Sometimes I spend a lot of time researching for this data so I can decide about its liability, It would be great help if you put the links to the sources in the description. Thanks!

  14. "…Is to be unfit for self-government" Yeah, there's your problem, most people who object to even hearing ideas are usually the same people who want government to provide for all their wants and needs, rather than having the freedom to get those things on their own.

  15. Professor Downs is the man! I took his last class before he retired on the principles of criminal law and crime in general. He was a great teacher!

  16. Sigh, if only preserving a liberal society was easy. Why are these idiots so willing to sacrifice our rights? To say these people take our liberal society for granted is a massive understatement.

  17. Free speech only prevents the government from punishing you for your opinion. It doesn't protect you from disagreement, unfriendly crowds, or protests and it doesn't entitle you to a platform or audience.

  18. Actually, affirmative action hurts people of color. At Yale University, Blacks were getting an automatic 200 points on their SAT's, Mexicans around 100, Whites 0, and Asians -50. That is racism right there. Also, when you fuckers here on MTV speak out about racist institutions, you preach it in the wrong approach. People who are allowed into colleges who are not academically prepared are already set up for failure before starting classes.

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