When College Students Don’t Understand the Concept of Free Speech

Chester E. Finn, Education Next, Sept 22, 2017
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Americans can govern themselves however they want, of course, but they like to export ideas like 'freedom of speech', and when the content of this export is pernicious, it becomes necessary to respond. This is the case here with Chester E. Finn. He takes pains to make it clear that "Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…" and then argues that students don't understand this principle. In particular, he finds it offensive that the majority of the students find it acceptable that "a student group opposed to the speaker disrupts the speech by loudly and repeatedly shouting so that the audience cannot hear the speaker." The freedom of speech does not require that I sit quietly and listen to attestations of hate. It entitles me to rise up and shout against it. And common decency requires that I do so.

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