April 18, 2019 | Jackie Jahfetson
Universities are intended to be places of self-growth, self-exploration and self-expression. According to one author, however, this isn’t the case. Greg Lukianoff, bestselling author and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), will give his presentation on “The Threat to Free Speech on Campus and What to Do About It” at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 22, in Jamrich Room 1100. Hosted by the Center for Academic and Intellectual Freedom (CAIF), the event will follow with a Q&A.
Rated one of 2018’s best books by the New York Times, Financial Times, Inc. Magazine, London Evening Standard and other publications, Lukianoff’s book “The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure” was coauthored with American social psychologist and professor Jonathan Haidt, and holds a “major importance” to the future of higher education, English professor and CAIF Director Gabriel Brahm said in an email, adding, everyone will gain something by attending.
“Look, if you’re in school, you should come to this. What are you here for except to open your mind, not have it closed for you. This event is all about the experience of being in school, in America today, in these troubled times. If you care about what that means—what it is to have the precious opportunity to become your best self while preparing for a career, and to have that threatened by politics—Greg Lukianoff is the iconic representative of what you should be getting for your money and hard work,” Brahm said. “You deserve better than to be ‘coddled’ into complacency and put to sleep. The audience for this historic event on campus will not be bored, I promise you.”
It’s important to “shake” the system up so liberal education can survive, he said, adding, “viewpoint diversity” is for everybody’s benefit.
“I choose themes I think are important, and that go against the grain of the dominant political correctness in academia. I think it’s necessary to challenge the grip that Cultural Marxism, anti-Americanism, postmodernism and radical feminism have had on the humanities and social sciences in the U.S. for decades,” he said. “For example, while the country is divided between liberal and conservative citizens, there are hardly any conservative professors. And students are tired of the one-sided discussions that produces. They’re sick of the echo chamber.”
And recognizing the “First Amendment culture” at NMU is vital because a university should be a place where all ideas can be heard and perspectives can grow, Brahm said. Universities used to be more free, but now people feel restricted in expressing their beliefs, he added. “If you’re not allowed to try out various ideas and learn from mistakes when you’re in college, then what are you free to do, really? How can you develop as a unique and infinitely precious individual, made in the image of God and endowed with unalienable rights, if you can’t even talk seriously about what that means, for example?” he said.
Lukianoff will examine the concepts of microaggressions, trigger warnings and intersectionality which are, according to Brahm, “the latest fad in academica composed by the Thought Police to infantilize students.” It’s an elaborate way of saying “some pigs are more equal than others,” he added, like George Orwell states in his book “Animal Farm.”
“Academic culture bleeds out into corporate and mainstream media culture. It sets the tone. That’s why this country is so divided today. Decades of repression on campuses across the nation have sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind. For example, you have the Twitter Mob and more broadly this incredible Outrage Culture, which is something universities have helped spawn. And you have the reactions to it. In short, beware [of] those who promise to protect you from yourself, for they are the bureaucrats of the soul,” he said.
The CAIF is “thrilled” to close its second-running year with this presentation that includes one of the most important voices on the future of free speech on campuses, Brahm continued. Next year will continue with libertarian economist and transgender activist Deirdre McCloskey and her talk will focus on today’s “moral legitimacy” of capitalism, he said, adding, her visit will also be timely in height of socialism circulating political discussions.
“The great abolitionist against slavery, Frederick Douglass, put it best, when he said in 1860, ‘To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.’ So, that’s a major harm right there that being overprotected from ‘offensive’ speech,” Brahm said. “In this light, the whole idea of ‘safe spaces’ is not only harmful to individuals, who wind up stunted, but antithetical to the university’s core mission of seeking the truth. There’s nothing safe about truth. There is nothing safe about thinking for yourself. Freedom is risky business.”
This article was originally published in The North Wind, here.