Yale's Free Speech Problem, America's Free Speech Problem - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Yale’s Free Speech Problem, America’s Free Speech Problem

Today, in the op-ed section here, I wrote a piece about how students outside leftist orthodoxy are self-selecting out of applying and attending hotbeds of leftist radical dogma. One of the schools to suffer the close-minded effects of the stifling of free speech is Yale. Yale, the once venerable font of higher learning, the third university in America, whose motto means “light and truth,” and was founded as a school to train clergy, is a mere shadow of its former self.

Erika Christakis, the Democrat,  early childhood education professor who left her post in the wake of an innocent email to students has this to say [please go read the whole thing] about her free speech ordeal:

But none of these examples captures the more worrying trend of self-censorship on campuses. For seven years I lived and worked on two college campuses, and a growing number of students report avoiding controversial topics — such as the limits of religious tolerance or transgender rights — for fear of uttering “unacceptable” language or otherwise stepping out of line. As a student observed in the Yale Daily News, the concept of campus civility now requires adherence to specific ideology — not only commitment to respectful dialogue.

I didn’t leave a rewarding job and campus home on a whim. But I lost confidence that I could continue to teach about vulnerable children in an environment where full discussion of certain topics — such as absent fathers — has become almost taboo. It’s never easy to foster dialogue about race, class, gender and culture, but it will only become more difficult for faculty in disciplines concerned with the human condition if universities won’t declare that ideas and feelings aren’t interchangeable. Without more explicit commitment to this principle, students are denied an essential condition for intellectual and moral growth: the ability to practice, and sometimes fail at, the art of thinking out loud. [Emphasis added.]

Certain members of the community used me and my family as tinder for a mass emotional conflagration by refusing to state the obvious: that the content of my albeit imperfect message fell squarely within the parameters of normal discourse and might even have been worth considering on its merits as an adjunct to prevailing campus orthodoxy. There was no official recognition that the calls to have us fired could be seen as illiberal or censorious. By affirming only the narrow right to air my views, rather than helping the community to grapple with its intense response, an unfortunate message was made plain: Certain ideas are too dangerous to be heard at Yale.

The collective denial of responsibility risks shortchanging students’ intellectual maturation and gradual assumption of autonomy. Moreover, the university’s careless conflation of talking (of which we had plenty) with listening (not so much) has the unintended effect of creating an inhospitable learning environment for the entire community, not just those who had no problem with my Halloween advice.

It takes more than Yale’s admirable free speech code to ensure a healthy habitat for learning. My fear is that students will eventually give up trying to engage with each other, a development that will echo in our wider culture for decades. My critics have reminded me that there are consequences to my exercise of free speech. Now it’s Yale’s turn to examine the consequences of its own stance: the shadow on its magnificent motto, “Light and truth.”

So the tip of this sword of political correctness has turned toward those who wielded it most often: college professors. Because they’ve always been part of the “in” crowd and exempt from criticism, the shock at being persecuted for exercising free speech is no doubt acute.

This is, though, exactly what anyone who is not liberal has had to contend with for years. One of the happy by-products of the Trump campaign has been the giant rhetorical shove in the opposite direction. Maybe the turn will also be political and be found in policy, too. That would be a welcome change from the unthinking charge over the cliff of political correctness.

Melissa Mackenzie
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Melissa Mackenzie is Publisher of The American Spectator. Melissa commentates for the BBC and has appeared on Fox. Her work has been featured at The Guardian, PJ Media, and was a front page contributor to RedState. Melissa commutes from Houston, Texas to Alexandria, VA. She lives in Houston with her two sons, one daughter, and two diva rescue cats. You can follow Ms. Mackenzie on Twitter: @MelissaTweets.
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