by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
A new school year is upon us, and the assault on free speech continues as Yale Law School students reject their new dean’s call for civil discourse. George Washington proclaimed in 1783 that if “the freedom of Speech may be taken away,” then, “dumb & silent we may be led, like sheep, to the Slaughter.” If campuses are incubating our next generation of leaders, I hope America likes lamb chops.
While teaching at Yale, I have often witnessed students demonizing each other over their disagreements. Concerned students informed me of a school-wide e-mail argument in which one student was branded racist because of his disagreement with another student’s criticism of course offerings. The accused pointed out that he obviously could not see his interlocutor’s race over e-mail, nor guess it from her name; he simply disagreed with her idea. The ad hominem attacks only intensified from there.
Another time, a student group invited a controversial speaker to campus. Rather than speak up to expose the flaws in the speaker’s ideas, offended students announced that anyone in that group who did not publicly denounce the speaker and call for a disinvitation would be labeled sexist and ostracized. Intimidated students quietly dropped out of the group.
These private interactions are a symptom of what ails the public sphere.