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Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate

4.27  ·  Rating Details  ·  206 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
For over a generation, shocking cases of censorship at America's colleges and universities have taught students the wrong lessons about living in a free society. Drawing on a decade of experience battling for freedom of speech on campus, First Amendment lawyer Greg Lukianoff reveals how higher education fails to teach students to become critical thinkers: by stifling open ...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published October 1st 2012 by Encounter Books
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(showing 1-30 of 838)
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Daniel Hammarberg
Jan 07, 2013 Daniel Hammarberg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a Swede who's living under "hate speech" laws to which the nation as a whole is subject, I'm definitely interested in hearing about free speech in America. I'm so happy there's at least one country in the world where you have something like the First Amendment and can't be sent to prison for what you say unlike over here. I have however learned of speech codes and that sort of stuff on American universities, so for that reason I picked up this book.

It's definitely an interesting compilation o
If you had told me that the next really good book that I would read on anything even parenthetically related to politics or the constitution would have been written by a liberal atheist, I would have been very dubious. But this book about the attack on free speech on college campuses and the effect that it has on society as a whole was excellent. Greg Lukianoff didn't, as is so often the case, ignore the errors of those he agrees with. The book was an even-handed look at the way colleges infring ...more
Apr 25, 2016 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'd never given weight to political correctness complaints. I'd always assumed people were trying to create trends from anecdotal outliers. Or that they were being disingenuous, essentially that the same people who ostracized the unpatriotic in the Bush years and feigned theatrical outrage over Obama's "they cling to guns or religion" statement were now portraying themselves victims of culture war hypersensitivity. I'd suspected that this was just a result of a greater variety of voices in the d ...more
Neil McGarry
Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate is a provocative look at the rise of speech codes on college campuses, but I am not sure it's a convincing one.

Author Greg Lukianoff posits that as college campuses have more closely monitored expression by students, faculty and administrators our society has become more sensitive, polarized, and unable to discuss important issues. That's quite a claim, and it may be accurate, but Carl Sagan warned that "extraordinary claims re
Nov 23, 2014 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As I was reading this book, a friend asked if the author wasn’t a bit boy who cried wolf.
Maybe, but maybe not.
Freedom of Speech issues really interest me, especially when at times I have seen a double standard (for instance a student refusing to state an opinion on anything or a student being mocked because she wanted to change her name when she got married).
This is basically a Project Fire handbook. Fire focuses on freedom of speech issues, and it has more to do with the student view of free
May 31, 2015 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Highly recommended reading. This book was excellent, and really illustrates the culture that pervades campuses now. I've seen many of these things first hand and understand personally the chilling effects it can have on speech. Lukianoff makes a very compelling argument that today's youth are not only not being encouraged to have respect for free speech and open debate, but they are actively being discouraged, as evidenced by the fact that most students today cannot construct arguments for posit ...more
Tony Beard
Jul 05, 2013 Tony Beard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I work in the administrative side of higher education, and have known about the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for several years. Their attacks against speech codes and reeducation has garnered my support, and I was thrilled that their president, Greg Lukianoff, wrote a book highlighting many of the cases FIRE has participated in.

I've always seen FIRE as an ACLU-type organization designed for the higher education landscape. An organization that protects a student's, as well
Seeing Mr. Lukianoff on BookTV piqued my interest, so I ordered this book via ILL. The disappointing part is that there should be a second subtitle "... and how I (and FIRE) are fighting the good fight", because all too often he inserts himself into the narrative. It reads more as an advertisement for FIRE (and him) than is necessary.

Having said that, it is truly frightening how many of these codes and limitations are not only being promoted by colleges but are not being protested by students. W
David Hoopes
Nov 17, 2012 David Hoopes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Greg Lukianoff and his colleagues at FIRE have spent the last decade defending the first amendment rights of students and faculty across the United States. I have been in academia for 20 years and I had no idea things were so bad. If you care about where post-secondary education is heading in the U.S. you owe it to yourself to read this extremely well written and shocking book. I have been following FIRE for a few years. Nevertheless, the cases described in this book really surprised me. The inc ...more
Feb 22, 2013 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic book.... What is happening on the American campus is astounding. Whether studens, teachers or administrator, free speech has taken a back seat to censorship and polictal correctness. This book is filled with individual stories about the unlearning of liberty on our college campuses. Greg and FIRE should be awarded medals of freedom for their work and bring this ourrage to the public. Going to college? Read the book. Been to college? Read the book. Interested in what has happened to fir ...more
Really interesting look at how political correctness didn't die in the 90's, it just rebranded itself. Lukianoff, a self-professed liberal Democrat, goes through hundreds of cases he's dealt with while working for the FIRE, detailing how campuses are derailing free speech and open debate. His premise is that this is a big part of the reason for our sharply divided politics -- a generation of college students who are being raised to not question authority, to not engage people of differing viewpo ...more
Aug 14, 2014 Peter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, education, law
I have recommended this book to several people. If you are interested in (concerned might be a better phrase) the state of political discussion in society: the understanding of our rights among the youth; or the state of education in our colleges and universities, than this book is a must read.

The author, the president of FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) is concerned about all of those things. He is worried that we are "unlearning" what liberty is, "unlearning" what our free
Dec 07, 2015 Katie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A depressing and informative book on the state of freedom of speech in US high schools and colleges. The author is an atheist and liberal and can still think and appreciate and fight for freedom of speech in the US.

After reading this book, I am more decided than ever that the high school and university system in the US needs a complete overhaul. Anyone who is sending their child to university or anyone getting ready to enroll in university needs to read this book. Is it really so important to sp
Amy Alkon
Aug 05, 2014 Amy Alkon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you know anyone in academia, professor or student, you know what a chill there is in free speech on campuses.

Greg Lukianoff's excellent book, "Unlearning Liberty," is PACKED, cover to cover with examples -- examples I wish that were made up, because they're so wildly and terribly wrong in terms of both our Constitution and the cultural principles our country is based on.

And Greg is right -- the issue goes way beyond the particular campus speech violations. The chill (and prohibitions) on diss
Maria  - Music and Fantasy are my Life and Dreams
The cover designs and summary of this book do no justice to how important and game-changing this book is to modern American society. "Unlearning Liberty" is the most enlightening and immediately applicable non-fiction book I have ever read. In a completely understandable way, each chapter covers a different threat to our most important of First Amendment rights, our Freedom of Speech.

While the book is a slow read and is longer than I would have preferred, it is modern and engaging, many times l
Jul 02, 2015 Milli rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
"That afternoon, you attend three meetings, one on the perils of binge drinking, another on the many different services available to gay and minority students, and the third featuring a strange play put on by Residence Life about date rape. You didn't really think you needed to be told that you shouldn't binge drink or sexually assault anyone. Do your fellow students not know this?" -p.96.

This quote hit so close to home, I laughed. And then I stopped, and thought about how messed up it really w
I have very mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I completely understand where the author is coming from, and he does make some excellent points. Being part of a democratic society should mean an open and free exchange of ides, even when those ideas are unpopular. The question everyone should ask themselves is this: Who gets to decide what is "right" and what is "wrong"? Is it yourself or the people you agree with? That's all fine and dandy, but what happens if things change and it's ...more
Feb 11, 2014 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was absolutely fantastic. I loved every second of reading it, even though nonfiction is not my usual cup of tea. Even though I've been on campus and experienced some of the things highlighted in the book (my colleges were mentioned negatively 4 times; for shame!), regrettably, I never noticed what a big deal free speech violations are or how often they're occurring all the time, all over the country. Please read this book if you think you know better than everyone else, so much so that ...more
James Keenley
Mar 29, 2013 James Keenley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The phrases "eye-opening" and "important" are usually ones that make me roll my eyes when I read a book review.

But this book is both important and eye-opening. Like many people, I thought the suppression of free speech on campus via speech codes was a 90s thing, an offshoot of the Political Correctness movement. I also thought that modern-day complaints about suppression of free speech via speech codes was simply Conservatives whining about being underrepresented on college campus. As this book
Aug 19, 2013 Lauren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I finished reading this book several days ago, and I’m still unsure of how to frame my thoughts on it. Not because it was bad, but because it gave me so much to think about that I’ve struggled with how to write a concise review without going off on a 5,000-word tangent.

And that’s exactly why I’d recommend Unlearning Liberty: because it invites thinking, debate, and discussion. Sometimes because I agreed with what Mr. Lukianoff was saying, sometimes because I disagreed strongly with what he was s
Matthew Hurtt
Jan 07, 2013 Matthew Hurtt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review originally appeared at America's Future Foundation "Doublethink" online magazine:

Are American universities contributing to the breakdown of public discourse and increased hyperpolarization? Greg Lukianoff, President of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), points to the assault on a number of basic freedoms as threats to the honest exchange of ideas on campus.

From free speech codes and zones that quarantine unpopular speech
Sean Rosenthal
Jul 24, 2013 Sean Rosenthal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, law
Interesting Quotes:

"Among the college seniors in the survey sample [of 24,000 students], only 30.3% answered they strongly agreed that 'It is safe to hold unpopular views on campus.'

"Even more alarmingly, the study showed that students' sense of the safety of expressing unpopular views steadily declines from freshman year (starting at 40.3%) to senior year. College seems to be the place where bad ideas about free speech go to get even worse...

"Faculty members, who are often the longest-serving m
Brian Tracz
Jun 23, 2013 Brian Tracz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most important books I have read recently. In short, this book argues that the greatest issue confronting education today is not its overt liberal bias, or its commitment to being "PC", or the rampant spread of hurtful and often demeaning speech. Rather, the author claims that we just do not understand the first amendment as a society anymore, and that it might ultimately lead to an era in which speech is approved by authoritarian structures like universities -- that "free" speech wou ...more
Sharon Tzur
Nov 30, 2013 Sharon Tzur rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this was an excellent book, well researched, and quite shocking. A must read for any concerned citizen.

My only criticism... there was a bit of repetition... the reader doesn't need to be reminded every chapter how important the marketplace of ideas is to a democratic society.

Also, there were two areas where I felt that the defense of free speech is problematic - one is in the area of bullying, which Lukianoff seems to think is a problem only for children, not for students or adults fo
Jun 09, 2013 james rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very thorough overview of the state of affairs of free speech on college campuses over the last 25 years. Lukianoff especially highlights the hard work that FIRE has done, with a lot of successes and a few failures.

I have worked in student affairs at a university that (thankfully) is not mentioned in this book. Nonetheless, much of what Lukianoff writes hits home hard. Students, faculty, and administrators generally do not know the contours (or even the 'Cliff Notes') of free speech. Lukianoff
Very good and important book--clarifying for me. Lukianoff argues that colleges, the very institutions that should provide a training ground for the intellectual habits of a free people, are increasingly undermining and quashing those practices, to the detriment of national discourse. Even if it weren't for his hundreds of pages of examples, I would have little trouble believing this, based on my experiences of higher education.
Kyle Bunkers
Mar 29, 2014 Kyle Bunkers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: freedom-thought
A very engaging read that I recommend to everyone. I was unaware of just how much freedom of speech is being threatened on campuses across the US. I was very disappointed to learn that the liberal spirit of free speech is being curtailed at the places you'd expect to support it the most.

For anyone interested in and supportive of having actual free speech (freedom of speech for terrible things like hate speech), an important and enlightening read.
Eric Sturdevant
Feb 25, 2015 Eric Sturdevant rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Far too often, "I'm offended!" has become a call to censor unwelcome ideas. Author and First Amendment lawyer Greg Lukianoff gives a disturbing case by case analysis of the erosion of free speech on our campuses and the chilling effect this has on culture. Excellent, highly recommended.
Leslie Beggs
May 06, 2014 Leslie Beggs rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book -- readable, well-documented and entertaining -- all necessary features since the subject matter is rather depressing: the lack of freedom of speech, and hence thought, on our college campuses.
Iso Cambia
May 11, 2014 Iso Cambia marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
Recommended in Peter Boghossian's "A Manual for Creating Atheists" (p. 201).
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“So what happens when students get the message that saying the wrong thing can get you in trouble? They do what one would expect: they talk to people they already agree with, keep their mouths shut about important topics in mixed company, and often don’t bother even arguing with the angriest or loudest person in the room (which is a problem even for the loud people, as they may not recognize that the reason why others are deferring to their opinions is not because they are obviously right).” 0 likes
“As the sociologist Diana C. Mutz discovered in her book Hearing the Other Side (2006), those with the highest levels of education have the lowest exposure to people with conflicting points of view, while those who have not graduated from high school can claim the most diverse discussion mates.19 In other words, those most likely to live in the tightest echo chambers are those with the highest level of education.” 0 likes
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