Free Speech and Liberal Education: A Plea for Intellectual Diversity and Tolerance

Cato Inst. Feb. 2020. 250p. ISBN 9781948647649. $24.95. ED
Downs (law, journalism emeritus, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison) expounds on the complex issues of free speech and academic freedom faced by America’s institutions of higher education. He cites instances such as protestors rallying against controversial speakers invited to lecture at universities, including right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos or Bell Curve author Charles Murray, and argues that such protests threaten open academic discourse. Drawing from a range of examples, the author delves deep into questions about the purposes of higher education and how open and often conflicting dialogs should be part of the pursuit of knowledge and truth. Downs explores the differences between free speech and academic freedom; what faculty, students, and administrators believe about these freedoms; and various policies in place at various institutions. Because these issues are so thorny, the author offers only limited solutions. However, his comprehensive discussion will provide a framework for those wishing to explore the subject further.
VERDICT For higher education professionals and scholars eager to understand and confront issues of free speech suppression at colleges and universities.

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