Free Speech: Challenge of Our Times — Robby P. George and Cornel West

Robert P. George and Cornel West visited ASU’s School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership discuss the importance of open dialogue in pursuit of civil discussion and the serious and respectful exchange of ideas, on university campuses and in American society. The event was co-sponsored by the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications and the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

On March 17, 2017, George and West published a statement, in support of “Truth Seeking, Democracy, and Freedom of Thought and Expression,” with the intention of drawing attention to the necessity of promoting freedom of thought and expression. The two became alarmed after a seeming epidemic of incidents on college campuses erupted across the country during which invited speakers were heckled or prevented from speaking altogether, sometimes violently. Their statement rejects what they call “campus illiberalism,” which they describe as the effort “to immunize from criticism opinions that happen to be dominant in their particular communities” and to exclude certain topics of discussion by “questioning the motives and thus stigmatizing those who dissent from prevailing opinions.”

Instead, West and George call on faculty, students and administrators to encourage an atmosphere in which “people feel free to speak their minds – where people are challenging each other, and thus learning.” To this end, the two professors have taught together at Princeton for more than 10 years and, while they disagree about politics, they are both advocates of the sort of liberal education that challenges us to examine our opinions and to learn from those with whom we disagree.

 

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