Author: Pamela Paresky

Free Speech for Me, But Not for Thee

Many people who genuinely believe that they support freedom of speech exhibit a double standard: One person’s “hate speech” is another person’s belief, opinion or even (as they see it) fact. And opinions about whether there’s a “free speech crisis” on university campuses tend to vary according to these subjective determinations. While I’m not a fan of such “crisis” language, there’s definitely a real decline in support for freedom of expression among young people. In a 2016 Knight Foundation survey, 91% of high school respondents said they supported the “freedom to express unpopular opinions.” But when pressed, only 45% said that people should have the right to publicly express ideas that others find “offensive.” The Knight Foundation’s numbers on college students’ attitudes are similar. In 2016, 78% of college respondents agreed that colleges should expose students to all types of speech and viewpoints. Yet, more than two-thirds said that colleges should be able to enact policies against language that is “intentionally offensive to certain groups,” and more than a quarter said that colleges should even …

Moral Pollution In Place of Reasoned Critique

I was chief researcher and in-house editor for The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. In the book, we outline three misguided principles (“Great Untruths”) that form the foundation of the new moral culture we are seeing on some college campuses: The Untruth of Fragility: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker. The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: Always trust your feelings.  The Untruth of Us Versus Them: Life is a battle between good people and evil people. We also trace six explanatory threads—cultural trends and practices that explain why this new moral culture, which we call “safetyism,” seemed to emerge so rapidly between 2013 and 2015: Rising teen depression and anxiety. The damaging effects of overprotection and social media. The loss of play in childhood. The polarization of the country. New ideas about justice. The bureaucratization of higher education. As we compiled story after story, we noticed that rather than making counterarguments to disfavored claims, students (and sometimes professors) seemed to focus on discrediting the speaker or writer instead. They …