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New Edition of Unlearning Liberty

Updated: Jan 22, 2021

[This is a review I published in Psychology Today on March 18, 2014]

Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, by Greg Lukianoff

A year-and-a-half ago, I wrote a lengthy article called A Book that Must be Read, about the hardcover publication of Unlearning Liberty, describing it as the most important book that you can read. The new soft-cover edition makes owning this book more affordable. I strongly urge you take advantage of it. People need to understand the insidious process that has taken hold of our nation.

I am also proud to say that the new edition contains a testimonial from my original review: “Unlearning Liberty is the most important book you can read…The very future of our society depends upon recognizing and reversing the insidious process that is its subject.”

As many of my followers know, I am a staunch advocate of freedom of speech. This freedom is the most basic right of a healthy, progressive, tolerant society. Freedom of speech is also the solution to most bullying.

Unfortunately, anti-bullying laws have been eradicating freedom of speech. Ironically, the movement to curtail freedom of speech originates from nowhere but our own universities, which are supposed to be bastions of free speech! Our academic leaders, in their misguided belief that the worst thing that can happen to someone is to feel offended, have determined that the culprit is freedom of speech. In their crusade to create a society in which no one feels offended, they have been successfully lobbying for laws that make it a crime to say or do anything that can upset anyone.

Lukianoff deals almost exclusively with the tragic elimination of freedom of speech in higher education. In my own work, I deal more with lower education. However, it is in k-12 that children’s attitudes are formed. The anti-freedom-of-speech indoctrination that our youth get from their anti-bullying education in lower education prepares them for unquestioningly accepting the anti-free-speech policies in higher education.

I am sad to say that my own state, New York, has passed the most draconian school anti-bullying law in the country. The euphemistically titledDignity for All Students Act has totally eradicated this precious freedom. It is a perfect example of the type of policies vilified in the iconic novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell.

I have always been proud to be a native New Yorker, a product of the most culturally important and diverse city in the world. I have spoken numerous times in psychological and educational venues in almost every state in the country. Unfortunately, I have discovered that in no state has free speech become as unwelcome as in my own. And that’s why I am an especially ardent advocate for Lukianoff’s important book.

It is also ironic that because of its intolerance of free speech, the academic bullying establishment is failing to find the solution to bullying. The orthodox view of bullying is the only one that it tolerates, despite the fact that it has been proven repeatedly not to work. Because it no longer believes in free speech and refuses to consider an alternative paradigm to bullying, this establishment will never discover that free speech is the solution to bullying that the world so desperately needs.

I will not repeat what I wrote in my original review of Unlearning Liberty. But it is as relevant today as it was then. If you haven’t already read it, I invite you to do it now:

In the new edition, Lukianoff has added a chapter on his experiences since the book’s original publication. His organization, FIRE: The Foundation for Individual Rights in Higher Education, has made some positive strides in reversing oppressive student speech codes, but there have also been some dramatic setbacks as well. Lukianoff’s work is thus far from over, and I wish him the strength to persevere in his efforts.

Proceeds from sales of the book go to support FIRE, so if you buy it, you will be supporting this important cause.

I would like to close with a citation from the new chapter in the book:

Too many of our future leaders are educated in an atmosphere that actively practices selective censorship and demonstrates little tolerance for free and open discourse. If our ultimate goal is to live in an open, bold and free society in which people are unafraid to play with ideas—and it should be for the health of our democracy—we must insure that the values of free speech and open inquiry are preserved in our nation’s campuses. It will be a long battle, but it is one we cannot afford to lose. And so the fight goes on.

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