Cancel Wars: How Universities Can Foster Free Speech, Promote Inclusion, and Renew Democracy

Univ. of Chicago. Jan. 2023. 208p. ISBN 9780226823805. pap. $20. ED
The premise of this book is that colleges and universities can serve as laboratories for democracy; campuses are common crossroads for many different people. Ben-Porath (education, philosophy, and political science, Univ. of Pennsylvania; Making Up Our Mind) does a solid job of reporting on the current decline of democracy in the United States due to increasing polarization and what she calls “truth decay.” To counter this, she proposes stronger civic education and media literacy training in K–12, followed by enhanced opportunities, guidance, and practice for voicing both assent and dissent in higher education. She believes polarization would decrease through co-creation of knowledge by all involved, mutual respect for boundaries of free speech, and the renewal of trust through general assumptions of goodwill, or at least a willingness to acknowledge different perspectives. This is a tall order, which she readily admits, but she argues that it’s possible if all campus members understand that the First Amendment makes no general exception for offensive, repugnant, or hateful expression. In the United States, hate speech is not a legal term. These ideas are illustrated with real-life examples throughout, followed by a list of practical suggestions for implementing change.
VERDICT Recommended for all education collections.
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