FEATURED REPORT

Free Speech on Campus

- May 20, 2022
Are legislators and activists curbing free expression?
Photo of a school board hearing in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, on November 15, 2021. (AP Photo/The Free Lance-Star/Peter Cihelka)
Although a poll found that 94 percent of Americans view the First Amendment as “vital” to democracy, free speech is under attack at an “unprecedented” level, according to the American Library Association. The attacks are coming from both the right and the left and are challenging books and curricula in classrooms and libraries at all levels, from pre-K through graduate school, according to free speech advocates. Since the beginning of 2021, lawmakers in 40 states have introduced some 175 bills to restrict teachers’ speech, 15 of which became law.

Some state legislators have placed restrictions on the teaching of the history of racism in the United States. What reasons do they give for these restrictions? Do you think these restrictions are justified, and why?

Should colleges have speech codes to control hate speech and other forms of offensive expression on campus?

 
1700s–1800sFirst Amendment protects free speech but does not extend to schools.
1900–1950sSupport for free speech waxes and wanes.
1960s–1970sFree speech restrictions are rolled back.
1980s–PresentAttacks on free speech hit record levels.
   

Should a school ban speakers who disagree with its core values?

Pro

Traci Yoder
Director of Research and Education, National Lawyers Guild.

Con

Jonathan Friedman
Director, Free Expression and Education, PEN America.

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