Yale University is ground zero for the free speech debate. Last Halloween, a professor was verbally attacked for having the temerity to say student should be able to express themselves through their Halloween costumes. Last week, two faculty members took to the pages of the New York Times to discuss the implication of the attack on free speech on campus.
“The college years – a time for important growth in autonomy and the consolidation of adult identity and life goals,” they write, “have evolved into an extended period of adolescence during which many of today’s students are not saddled with adult responsibilities.” In other words, they argue, college campuses – and the associated restrictions on free speech – infantilize students and leave them ill-equipped for adulthood.
To prepare for adulthood, colleges instead need to allow students to explore and experiment with ideas. Rigorous debate and discussion will allow these young intellectuals to challenge majority opinions and equip them with the ammunition to understand the world. In the video below, Professor Donald Downs elaborates on the importance of free expression in education.
Ironically, the safe spaces being created by colleges are dangerous to students’ long-term well-being.