President Trump has just signed an executive order to protect free speech in America’s increasingly liberal-dominated higher education system. Many have welcomed this move; others have claimed it’s an overreaction or even an attack on the same freedoms it claims to protect. What’s the truth here? Is Trump playing politics and making worthless gestures to please his core vote, or taking long-overdue action to protect our freedom of speech?
- It’s hard to deny that free speech is under attack at American universities. Restrictions are springing up in schools across the country, seriously limiting what is acceptable — or even allowed — for people to say.
- This new censorship is mostly being driven by students but often, faculty go along with student demands out of fear of rocking the boat. These fears aren’t empty, either — there have been plenty of high-profile incidents where students have demonstrated in protest against something an instructor has said.
- In the most extreme cases, like Oregon’s notorious Evergreen College, faculty were physically imprisoned by a student mob and forced to go through an ordeal of self-criticism that wouldn’t have been out of place in Mao’s China. Shockingly, some staff not only willingly went along with it — they joined students in attacking their colleagues.
- Evergreen is probably the worst example so far, but the same ideas are spreading through other schools. So-called “speech codes” openly limit what can be said. Rules on “misgendering” and “cultural appropriation” have the same effect. Many books are disapproved of simply because the authors happened to be white men.
- It’s easy to write this off as just students being students but, increasingly, students who’ve been through this sort of college environment are entering the workforce. Many of them are bringing the same attitudes to business, education and even government.
- If students keep coming out of our universities believing they have a right to never hear anything they disagree with, or that challenges their own beliefs, the damage to our society will be huge. If enough people in positions of influence — which are usually filled by graduates these days — believe it’s acceptable to restrict free speech, eventually that’s what’s going to happen.
- President Trump has now signed the Executive Order to Improve Transparency and Promote Free Speech in Higher Education. It’s something that everyone who values freedom — whether they’re on the Left or Right — should support.