“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear,” asserted Eric Arthur Blair, English author and critic better known by as George Orwell. Blair acknowledged the essence of liberty and its manifestation in a free society. This manifestation of freedom is most fundamental in education, for education is the basis of any civilization. The structured education coupled with the familial environment informs and equips every young person to venture into the world independently and, if informed well and equipped properly, to prosper and succeed.
Free speech is essential in the informing and equipping of youth through the structured education they receive. It is of the utmost importance that the malleable youth of our free society are firstly equipped with cognitive flexibility and contemplative processes. Armed with logical discernment on one side and rhetorical judgement on the other, one is firmly equipped to then be exposed to differing and even contradictory ideologies.
However, in today’s educational system, students are increasingly sheltered from views differing from those in authority. Contradictory viewpoints are labeled “offensive” and even “violent” and are banished from the public square. Censoring the educational environment of our youth undermines the essence of both a liberal education and a free society.
On September 26, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke at Georgetown University. He addressed the problem of free speech and its place on campus. He states: “Curbing free speech rights is not the way to provide protection from unforeseen incidents that may occur in the current political climate. If we want top-notch universities to train tomorrow’s leaders to uphold our national values, we need more free speech, not less…. If students, our collective future and tomorrow’s leaders, are unable to exercise their rights of free speech and assembly at a public university or pose questions to a speaker at a lecture, where does that leave us as a nation?” (CNN). The limitation of students’ repertoire of knowledge and awareness is detrimental to society’s future. American philosopher and critic Noam Chomsky observed: “Censorship is never over for those who have experienced it. It is a brand on the imagination that affects the individual who has suffered it, forever.”
Furthermore, the hallmark of a free society is genuineness of product. In other words, consequential results are of genuine intention of origination due to freedom of decision. For example, morality ceases to be genuine when the freedom of choice is removed. Thus, without the freedom of choice, entire ideologies are uprooted and stripped of their genuineness. Without sound and genuine worldviews and ideologies, no civilized society can exist. Deprived of liberal exposure, there can be no freedom of choice. Nineteenth century Irish playwright and critic, George Bernard Shaw insightfully remarked: “The first condition of progress is the removal of censorship.”
Thus, without universal freedom of expression, the education of society’s future leaders is compromised, and the ideologies of students are unsound and not genuine. With today’s constantly-controversial society and ever-changing politics, grounded and principled leaders are essential. Zoning free speech is not only unconstitutional but also deprives malleable youth of developing a firm ideology and set of principles. And, according to Foundation for Individual Rights in Education statistics, one in ten colleges and universities have established free speech zones; therefore, approximately 262 institutions for higher education have stifled the essential process of America’s youth in developing and strengthening their core belief systems.
Political theorist and author John Rawls would argue for what is termed “the naked public square.” He believes that, before entering the dialogue of the public square, one must drop his presuppositional beliefs. However, this is thoroughly unattainable, for all other beliefs and opinions are fully reliant on one’s presuppositions. Despite this fact, Rawls has dramatically infected American popular opinion, especially in the relationship of church and state. Religious motivation is undermined and discounted in the nation’s policy making and societal dialogue. However, it is impossible for anyone to address policy or societal trends without his presuppositional framework. For example, when presented with the controversy of abortion, the Christian may argue that abortion should not be legal due to his belief that humans bear the image of God. On the other hand, the atheist may propose that abortion is a medical advancement toward a better society. Either side is arguing from their basis of presuppositions.
Free speech includes free expression and manifestation of ideologies and presuppositions. An environment of the free market should exist for ideologies and presuppositions also. Students should be presented with uncensored material, and, via capitalism of ideas, the best and most efficacious ideas will thrive. The protection and preservation of these freedoms is imperative to society and students especially. Without an environment of free speech which fosters the capitalism of ideas, students cannot become equipped to lead society.