Jose Carillo's Forum


This section features discussions on education, learning and teaching, and language with particular focus on English. The primary subjects to be taken up here are notable advocacies and contrary viewpoints in these disciplines and their allied fields. Our primary aim is to clarify matters and issues of importance to language and learning, provide intelligent and useful instruction, promote rational and critical thinking, and enhance the individual’s overall capacity for discernment.

“Once upon a time there was free, robust speech in US campuses”

“There was a time when people believed free speech on campus should be as wild and freewheeling as possible,” says Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE for short, in the United States. “Not anymore. Today students are apparently too sensitive to be able to deal with hard ideas or outrageous humour.”

In “Students are supposed to read books, not burn them,” an article in Spike written by its editor Brendan O’Neill, Lukianoff laments that freedom of thought and speech in US campuses is today “being beaten up by the massed ranks of self-righteous students allergic to being offended, speech-policing university administrators who see it as their job to remould young people’s belief systems, and even some professors who now monitor what their students say in class and the tone in which they say it.”

Lukianoff says this assault on free speech on campus is a consequence of today’s broader academic culture that, instead of highly prizing combative debate and the unfettered freedom to scuffle over ideas and knowledge, increasingly demonizes such things as potentially hurtful and damaging. By doing this, he says, this academic culture is destroying its own raison d’être, which is to foster thought, discussion, and enlightenment.

Instead, Lukianoff proposes moving away from the idea that “words are like bullets” and that speech is a form of physical assault, and recognizing that being argued with, even vociferously, is not the same as being beaten up. “The fact that words can hurt feelings, the fact that they carry emotional charges, is all the more reason for protecting them from censorship,” he explains. “Because the whole point of free speech is to have deep, meaningful, robust debates. We have to have deadly serious discussions about deadly serious things – and we can’t do that if everyone is listening out for potentially offensive words rather than thinking about and responding to the ideas being expressed.”  

Read Brendan O’Neill’s “Students are supposed to read books, not burn them” in Spike now!

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