Panel At The Heritage Foundation Addresses Why Free Speech Is Important On College Campuses

July 27, 2017

Guest post by Kandace Palmer

The Heritage Foundation hosted a panel about free speech on college campuses this week, featuring Lindsey Burke, Director of the Center for Education Policy and Will Skillman Fellow in Education at The Heritage Foundation, Congressman Phil Roe, Mary Clare Amselem, Policy Analyst at The Heritage Foundation, Stanley Kurtz, Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and Tim Sandefur, Vice President for Litigation at the Goldwater Institute. They shared their knowledge about the need for colleges nationwide to encourage and allow intellectual diversity.

In the words of Kurtz, “Far too many students are now convinced they have a right to shout down and silence those with whom they disagree and that they won’t be punished for doing so.” Condemning another person by restricting them from speaking and debating is a violation of one of our nation’s fundamental principles.

Sandefur explained that we need disruption in the classroom to be prevented. However, it is not right to completely silence, ignore, or insult a single view in its entirety. The culture of college learning is meant to be a learning ground of different ideas. If we want our sons and daughters to truly learn, we must allow them to experience difference.

Mary Clare Amselem forwarded the need for competition between schools, or ideas within schools. In the current system, many campuses consist of a large majority of liberal professors who promote liberal ideologies. Because of this tendency and bias, conservative ideas are put into a box and told to confine themselves to Free Speech Zones. The process of shutting out separate ideas and labeling or degrading others is an intellectually lazy practice. It produces feelings of disdain for others and their ideas and it allows the student to remain slothfully within their own convictions, never asking them to look outside of themselves and change.

Of all the classes I have taken during my undergraduate experience, the ones I enjoy and learn from the most are those that are intellectually challenging. The ones that suggest to me new ideas that I had never considered before, even ideas that I did not and still do not particularly like. One such course was anthropology, taught by a professor with a sure conviction to take students out of their comfort zones and teach them to recognize that another person’s perspective is valid, whether or not they agree with it.

Classes like these teach me new material and give me a reason to see beyond my own experiences and even my own limitations. Much less comes out of classes which present to me only ideas that I already know or already agree with.

As Congressman Roe said, “Free speech is the oxygen of democracy.” It fuels are society because it encourages tolerance, friendship, and understanding. None of which require changing one’s own views. Sandefur said that “we owe it to future generations to leave America as free as we found it or freer.” We ought to leave it to others to quarrel about opposing perspectives and different points of view. Perhaps there is more similarity than difference in what we all seek, and every student deserves a chance to share how they see the world.

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