Free speech on college campuses important for higher education learning

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The ASU School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership is hosting events to discuss a range of ideas with various points of view. In addition to a monthly lecture series, the school is also hosting a two-day conference, Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity in Higher Education: Implications for American Society.

Paul Carrese, founding director of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, says the events and conference provides the opportunity to have open dialogues in a civil discussion. As an example, a recent event featured a conversation between conservative thinker Robert George and liberal thinker Cornel West. Carrese says that George and West teach courses together on the basis of their disagreements. It’s in order to show the students how to widen their own perspectives and listen to ideas, even when they contradict your own beliefs.

Carrese says it’s only through debate that you can figure out what the truth is, and whether or not your view is right.

“In our information age, people are sorting themselves so they don’t have to listen to anything they don’t already agree with,” Carrese says. “That in part is a reflection of what has happened in some universities and college campuses. Certain views are not taught anymore, seen as not respectable. We want to broaden the range of discourse again, focus on debate and fundamental ideas.”

The director urges students to ask questions and wonder about everything that is shown or said to them. It’s an important part in helping students learn and grow. It doesn’t stop at the universities though, it can extend into our politics as well.

The lecture series has been held once a month since September. The conference will be held on February 23 and 24 at ASU’s Tempe and Downtown Phoenix campuses.

TED SIMONS: WE SHOULD MENTION THAT THE PARTNERS IN THIS THE COLLEGE OF LAW AND THE CRONKITE SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM AND MASS COMMUNICATIONS PARTNERING WITH YOUR DEPARTMENT HERE. WHAT IS BEING DISCUSSED? BECAUSE FREE SPEECH SHOULD BE FREE SPEECH, BUT BOY IS THIS CAN BE A COMPLICATED TOPIC.

PAUL CARRESE: WE ARE VERY GLAD TO HAVE SPEAKERS FROM HIGHER EDUCATION. FROM LAW, FROM POLITICS TO JOIN US. ALL YEAR LONG STARTING IN SEPTEMBER WE’VE HAD A SERIES OF EVENTS. WE HAVE AN EVENT TONIGHT AS WELL WITH TWO COLLEGE PROFESSORS TALKING ABOUT THIS. NEXT WEEK, A TWO DAY CONFERENCE, 28 SPEAKERS IN TWO DAYS TALK AGO ABOUT THIS. IT’S AN IMPORTANT ISSUE FOR HIGHER EDUCATION WHAT KIND OF DEBATE AND IDEAS AND INQUIRY IS PERMITTED ON A PARTICUALR UNIVERSITY OR BUSINESS. AND THEN IN OUR POLITICS, IT'S A VERY IMPORTANT ISSUE. HOW TO BE WE THINK, REASONABLE AND CIVIL IN EXPRESSING DIFFERENT POINTS OF VIEW.

TED SIMONS: WELL I NOTICE SOME OF THE GOALS HERE, SOME OF THE SPEAKERS HAVE CHOSEN THEIR TOPICS, ONE WAS OPEN DIALOGUE IN PURSUIT OF CIVIL DISCUSSION. WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT THERE?

PAUL CARRESE: THOSE ARE TWO PROFESSORS, ROBERT GEORGE, VERY WELL-KNOWN AS A CONSERVATIVE, TRADITIONAL THINKING ABOUT LAW AND POLITICS AND CORN NELL WEST, WELL-KNOWN AS A LIBERAL PROGRESSIVE THINKER ON LAW AND POLITICS. THEY HAVE TRAVELED AROUND THE COUNTRY IN RECENT YEARS TO TALK ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCE OF TEACHING COURSES TOGETHER ON THE BASIS OF THEIR DISAGREEMENTS, BOTH WITH P. H. D. DEGREES IN PHILOSOPHY AND LAW. THEY HAVE VERY STRONG FOUNDATIONS FOR THEIR DISAGREEMENTS BUT THEY HAVE A DEEPER COMMITMENT TO DISCUSSING WITH EACH OTHER AND LEARNING FROM EACH OTHER. THEY THINK THAT WILL EXTEND ONTO OUR CIVIL AFFAIRS OR OUR POLITICAL AFFAIRS. THAT IT’S IMPORTANT TO BE AMERICANS WHO ARE COMMITED TO CERTAIN PRINCIPLES. LIBERTY, EQUALITY, THE RULE OF LAW ABOUT WHICH WE WILL ALWAYS DISAGREE. JUST WHAT THEY MEAN, JUST HOW TO APPLY THEM. THE DEEPER COMMITMENT IS TO LISTENING, ARGUING, TALKING IT OUT. TRYING TO FIND REASONABLE COMPROMISING.

TED SIMONS: ANOTHER ADDRESS, WAS DISCUSSING SERIOUS AND RESPECTFUL EXHANGE OF IDEAS ON CAMPUS. SERIOUS AMD RESPECTFUL. I MEAN WE HAVE SEEN A VARIETY OF INCIDENTS ON CAMPUSES WHERE RESPECT IS THE LAST THING BEING DISPLAYED.

PAUL CARRESE: YEAH IN THE PAST TWENTY-YEARS THERE HAVE BEEN EPISODES WHERE SPEAKERS FROM THE LEST SIDE OF THE SPECTRUM HAVE BEEN DISINVITED OR FORCEFUL EFFORTS TO PUSH THEM OFF CAMPUS, BUT THAN SPEAKERS FROM THE RIGHT DECADE OR SO. WE HAVE TWO SPEAKERS FROM THE RIGHT ONE FROM REID COLLEGE IN OREGON. ONE FROM THE COLLEGE IN VERMONT. TALKING ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCE AND BEING IN THE RECEIVING END OF STUDENTS WHO DIDN'T WANT COURSES TAUGHT OR STUDENTS WHO DIDN’T WANT CERTAIN SPEAKERS TO COME. HIGHER EDUCATION HAS A RESPONSIBILITY TO BE A MODEL FOR ALLOWING A VERY WIDE-RANGE OF VIEWS TO BE EXPRESSED. IN REASONABLE WAYS BUT TO TOLERATE A RANGE OF VIEWS, SO THAT HIGHER LEARNING CAN HAPPEN. IT'S ONLY THROUGH DEBATE. WHEN YOU FIGURE OUT WHAT THE TRUTH IS. WHY YOUR VIEW IS RIGHT, WHY YOUR POSITION IS RIGHT.

TED SIMONS: WHEN DID PROTESTS COME ON FROM THE 60S OR BEFORE HAND? WHEN DID PROTESTING CERTAIN THINGS BECOME STOPPING IN TERMS OF ADDRESSING AN ISSUE. YOU DON'T WANT SOMEONE THINKING THE EARTH IS FLAT SPEAKING INFRONT OF A BUNCH OF SCIENCE STUDENTS. I CAN UNDERSTAND THAT BUT BECAUSE POLITICAL DISCOURSE. UNIVERSITITES SHOULD BE OPEN EXCHANGES OF IDEAS HERE WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THAT IDEA.

PAUL CARRESE: I THINK THERES BEEN A CHANGE IN VIEWS WITHIN HIGHER EDUCATION ABOUT WHAT IS ACCEPTABLE TO CERTAIN COMMUNITIES ON CAMPUS AND THE COMMITMENT THAT WE ARE MAKING IS TO PROVIDE A SPACE IN THE SCHOOL OF CIVIC AND ECONOMIC THOUGHT TO DISCUSS THESE IDEAS. SO WE HAVE OUR OWN CURRICULUM, WE HAVE A MAJOR AND MINOR THAT’S PENDING. THAT’S ABOUT TO BE APPROVED. AND THEN IN OUR CIVIC EDUCATION IN THE PUBLIC AFFAIRS OUTREACH TO EXTEND THAT, TO MAKE SPACE TO GET TO THE ROOT ISSUES. WHY IS THERE A FIRST AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION AT ALL? HOW DOES THAT SHAPE OUR ENTIRE VIEW OF WHAT LIBERTY IS AND HOW DO WE FIGURE OUT WHAT EQUALITY MEANS AND WHAT ANY OF THESE PRINCIPLES MEANS IN PRACTICE. WE WOULD LIKE TO PROVIDE SOME SPACE THAT WE THINK HAS BEEN SHRINKING IN HIGHER EDUCATION. NOT TO SAY THAT WE IN THE SCHOOL, MYSELF AS THE DIRECTOR HAVE PRECISELY THE RIGHT VIEW BUT TO PROVIDE AN ARENA FOR DEBATE. SO NEXT WEEK, WE HAVE A RANGE OF SPEAKERS, 28 SPEAKERS ACROSS TWO DAYS. WE HAVE SOME PEOPLE COMING TO SAY THAT CERTAIN SPEAKERS NEVER TO BE INVITED TO THE UNIVERSITY CAMPUS AND THEN WE HAVE SOME OF THE SPEAKERS WHO HAVE BEEN DISINVITED. THEY HAVE AGREED TO SHARE THE SAME PANEL AND STAGE SO WE CAN HEAR THE ASU STUDENTS AND FACULTY AND THEN THE WIDER COMMUNITY. EVERYONE IS WELCOME TO ALL OF OUR EVENTS ANY TIME. AND HEAR THE DIFFERENT ARGUMENTS, HOW TO DEFINE REASONABLE SPEECH AND FREE SPEECH.

TED SIMONS: I NOTICED THERE WAS A CONVERSATION REGARDING OPINIONS AND THAT THEY ARE IMMUNIZED BECAUSE THEY ARE DOMINANT IN THEIR PARTICULAR COMMUNITY. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? HOW OFTEN DO WE SEE OPINIONS BEING IMMUNIZED?

PAUL CARRESE: I THINK IT’S HAPPENED IN HIGHER EDUCATION AND THEN WE SEE THE ECHOS OF THAT IN OUR POLITICAL DISCOURSE. SO MANY SCHOLARS HAVE DOCUMENTED THIS NOW IN OUR INFORMATION AGE OF COMMUNICATION CHOICES, PEOPLE ARE SORTING THEMSELVES SO THEY NEVER HAVE TO HEAR OR LISTEN TO ANYTHING THAT THEY DON'T ALREADY AGREE WITH. THAT PART IS A REFLECTION OF WHATS HAPPENED IN SOME UNIVERSITY AND COLLEGE CAMPUSES WHERE CERTAIN VIEWS ARE NOT TAUGHT ANYMORE. SEEN AS NOT RESPECTABLE AND SO THE RANGE OF DISCOURSE NARROWS. WE AT THE SCHOOL OF CIVIC THOUGHT AND LEADERSHIP, WE WANT TO BROADEN THE RANGE OF DISCOURSE, FOCUS ON DEBATE ABOUT FUNDEMENTAL IDEAS. TODAY FEBRUARY 12TH IS LINCOLN'S BIRTHDAY. WE ARE TRYING TO MAKE SPACE TO REGULARLY TEACH THE FOUNDING DOCUMENTS AND THE FOUNDING IDEALS, THE SOURCES OF AMERICAN LIBERAL DEMOCRACY, GREAT STATESMAN AND LEADERS ALONG THE WAY. WE HAVE SOME SPECIAL MONEY TO PURCHASE SPECIAL BOOKS AND SO MOST RECENTLY WE PURCHASED TWO AUTOGRAPHED BOOKS BY MARTIN LUTHER KING JR., BUT WE ALSO HAVE A FIRST COPY OF THE FEDERALIST PAPERS MOSTLY AUTHORED BY ALEXANDER HAMILTON. WE WANT TO MAKE SPACE TO MAKE GREAT IDEAS, FUNDEMENTAL IDEAS DISCUSSED AND DEBATED. THEN PEOPLE WILL BE ABLE TO, OUR STUDENTS, FACULTY WHO SEE US WILL BE ABLE TO CALM DOWN AND SEE SOME COMMON GROUND. AGAIN, WE ALWAYS DISAGREE AS AMERICANS ABOUT WHAT THESE PRINCIPLES MEAN, BUT IF WE KNEW MORE ABOUT GREAT IDEAS AND GREAT DEBATES AND DISCUSSIONS ABOUT THOSE IDEAS, IT MAY HELP US GET PERSPECTIVE ON RECENT ISSUES.

TED SIMONS: WE’VE ONLY GOT A MINUTE OR SO LEFT HERE, BUT HOW OFTEN IS THE MOTIVATE OF A SPEAKER QUESTIONED? SHOULD IT BE QUESTIONED?

PAUL CARRESE: WE THINK THE MOTIVATES SHOULD BE QUESTIONED LESS UNTIL YOU HEAR THE SPEAKER. WE WANT TO HAVE SPACE TO DEBATE WHAT THE BOUNDARIES ARE. SPEECH SHOULD BE SPEECH; IT SHOULDN’T BE VIOLENT OR HATEFUL IN A COLLEGE SETTING, CERTAINLY A UNIVERSITY SETTING. WE WANT TO GET BACK TO SOME FUNDAMENTAL IDEAS AND FUNDEMENTAL DEBATES SO I WOULDN'T IMMUNIZE MYSELF FROM HEARING ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW BECAUSE I HAVE DECLARED IT UNACCEPTABLE TO BEGIN WITH. WHAT ROBBY GEORGE AND CORNELL WEST ARE TRYING TO SAY, HOW DO YOU KNOW YOUR OWN VIEW IS RIGHT UNLESS YOU HEAR VERY STRONG ARTICULENT VIEWS CRITICIZING YOUR VIEW SO WE CAN CONTINUE GROW AND LEARN. IT STARTS IN UNIVERSITIES BUT IT EXTENDS TO OUR POLITICS.

TED SIMONS: THAT'S WHAT POLITICS IS ABOUT HERE, AND ARIZONA PBS IS INVOLVED WITH THIS AS WELL?

PAUL CARRESE: WE ARE DELIGHTED TO HAVE ARIZONA PBS AS PARTNER. SO EACH OF THE LECTURES, WE HAVE HAD A BOUT ONE A MONTH SINCE SEPTEMBER. OUR TWO DAY CONFEREANCE, WE HAVE LECTURES GOING ON TILL APRIL; ALL OF THEM ARE BEING RECORDED BY ARIZONA PBS AND THEY HAVE THEIR OWN SERIES CALLED, ‘FREE SPEECH CHALLENGE OF OUR TIME’. YOU CAN FIND ALL OF THEM ON THE ARIZONA PBS WEBSITE.

TED SIMONS: THAT’S RIGHT AZPBS.ORG. GOOD TO HAVE YOU HERE. THANK YOU SO MUCH, WE APPRECIATE IT.

TED SIMONS: TUESDAY ON ARIZONA HORIZON, THE STATE IS ASKING A SYMPATHETIC TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOR A FIVE YEAR LIFETIME CAP ON MEDICAID BENEFITS. WHAT THAT WOULD MEAN FOR HEALTH CARE IN THE STATE. AND WE'LL HEAR ABOUT THE LATEST PRODUCTION BY THE ARIZONA THEATRE COMPANY. THAT'S TUESDAY ON "ARIZONA HORIZON." THAT IS IT FOR NOW. I'M TED SIMONS. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US. YOU HAVE A GREAT EVENING.

VIDEO: ARIZONA HORIZON IS MADE POSSIBLE BY CONTRIBUTIONS FROM THE FRIENDS OF ARIZONA PBS. MEMBERS OF YOUR PBS STATION, THANK YOU.

Paul Carrese: Founding Director, ASU School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership

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