Caitlin Flanagan was, without a doubt, one of my favorite speakers at the NeW National Conference. Caitlin Flanagan is a contributing editor to the Atlantic and a former staff writer for The New Yorker. In addition, she is also the author of Girl Land, a best-selling book about what girls have lost and gained in the 21st century. Caitlin’s talk, “Does Your College Teach You What to Think or How to Think?”, is very fitting when addressing and describing the issue that faces current college students on unapologetically liberal campuses.
Caitlin herself grew up in a very liberal household, she even described her father as “being slightly to the left of Karl Marx.” She talked about how when you’re growing up, your political party and who you are comes from your parents. When Caitlin was growing up, her parents were liberal and it was “cool” to be liberal. When Caitlin was younger, the people on college campuses who were fighting tooth and nail for free speech were liberal students; Now, it is the complete opposite.
Caitlin attended the very liberal campus of the University of California, Berkeley during a time when the university would tell you what you could and could not do, including the realm of politics. She and her fellow liberal students were the free speech activists of the time, so what changed?
“When someone has won big time, they fight free speech,” Caitlin described. “Politics goes up and down, but liberals won in the college environment and they want to shut the other side out. You want to suppress and there is a very bad tendency in power to shut the loser out.”
Without a doubt, there is an indoctrination occurring on college campuses today. There is an ethos or tone that when you come out of your university, it would be “best” for you to adopt a certain set of opinions-the liberal set of opinions. This idea is damaging and as a result, the purpose of college, which is to educate and help those further their pursuit of truth, has been overshadowed. Instead of fostering debate and discussion, speakers and thinkers are being de-platformed, shouted down, and disinvited from institutions that once welcomed them.
So what can we do to stop this? Well, Caitlin provided an answer, “The remedy for free speech is more free speech.”
Caitlin said that as conservative students on campus, we should be the ones fighting to facilitate discussion. We should offer opportunities to the other side to debate and learn from each other and when they refuse to do so, we should be sure to leave a paper trail and write about their lack of cooperation.
Caitlin closed by saying, “Even if you lose a battle of ideas, it is important to stand up for the remnant and be the echo because without it, you will feel demoralized.” Every student should “stand up for [themselves],” and be able to say “I’m not afraid of an idea.”