Phi Beta Cons

Greg Lukianoff’s Terrific New Book

In this week’s Pope Center Clarion Call, I review Greg Lukianoff’s Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate.

The book, published yesterday by Encounter, gives an unwavering defense of the principles of free speech and association, while also giving a relentless attack on the intolerance and authoritarianism that so pervades many American colleges and universities.

How on earth did we get here? That is, how could it be that so many college leaders are comfortable with speech codes, free-speech zones, vague “harassment” policies, professors who demand specific political action from students and insist that they accept controversial assumptions, restrictions on what campus organizations can say and whom they must admit, and so on? I think that Lukianoff hints at the explanation but doesn’t quite nail it down: Many college leaders have grown up in the leftist environment which insists that freedom is often “unfair” and must be selectively shackled for the greater social good. That notion goes back at least to Herbert Marcuse, who opposed free speech because those whose thinking he didn’t like could use it to attack the collectivist/statist ideas he did like. Those student radicals of the 1960s are now largely in control of our colleges and universities, and deep down they still adhere to the illiberal ideas of their youth.

George Leef — George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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