Slate: Speech codes are great because college students are little children who need protection

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An article at Slate is lauding censorship of student speech because “students today are more like children than adults and need protection.”

Eric Posner, writing on the new climate of free speech at universities being regulated by so-called speech codes to prohibit offensive speech targeted at racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities, says “Most liberals celebrate these developments, yet with a certain uneasiness. Few of them want to apply these protections to society at large.” Yet, the truth is that most liberals do support the same limits of speech to society as a whole. One need only look to the leftwing support for hate speech laws or the Ban Bossy campaign made famous by the likes of Michelle Obama to see the truth.


Posner continues, “the justification for these policies may lie hidden in plain sight: that students are children. Not in terms of age, but in terms of maturity. Even in college, they must be protected like children while being prepared to be adults.”

This is laughable; college age students are old enough to vote and enlist in the military, old enough to consent to any sexual activity, and get married. To believe that those coming to college are uneducated, and most be protected, is to ignore every other standard our society has towards adulthood. The double standard is stunning, as liberals continually push for lower drinking ages and lower ages of sexual consent, and easier access to birth control for minors. Liberals have no problem with children having sex or getting drunk, but have a serious issue with young adults espousing opinions that differ from theirs.

Posner cites an incident at Marquette University which libertarians and conservatives are up in arms over, as being blown out of proportion. While studying the philosophy of John Rawls, one student opined that he believed gay marriage was supported by Rawlsian philosophy. After class, another student expressed that he disagreed and was subsequently told that his opinion was not welcome in class because it could be offensive to some students. The professor asked if the student knew if any of his classmates were gay, and the student did not. Why should this matter? Did the professor ask if any the students were Christian, or if they held particular religious beliefs about marriage? Of course not. In the liberal world of academia, you have no right to be offended unless you’re leftwing.


Posner justifies the professor’s actions, as being protective of gay students. It never crosses Posner’s mind that being pro-gay marriage could offend students and that they have every right to their religious beliefs. The topic was not whether being gay is right or wrong, it’s a matter of law and how one views the institution of marriage. Colleges should welcome free and open debate on these matters. But not according to Ponser, who declares college debate is harmful.

“There is a popular, romantic notion that students receive their university education through free and open debate about the issues of the day. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Students who enter college know hardly anything at all—that’s why they need an education. Classroom teachers know students won’t learn anything if they blab on about their opinions. Teachers are dictators who carefully control what students say to one another,” Posner’s diatribe reads.

Posner claims, once again, that students are stupid and “hardly no anything at all,” so they need to have their speech censored by the professor. He calls teachers dictators, and later goes on to say that good professors “carefully manipulate their students.”

This is too telling, as liberalism too often resorts to totalitarianism for the supposed good of the people. Classrooms cannot be environments conducive to open discussion, according to Ponser they need to be controlled and students manipulated into echoing leftwing positions.

Posner goes on to ridiculously state that these speech restrictions are simply colleges responding to the market, because the majority of students support such actions, therefore libertarians and conservatives should support them. Of course, these are the same students Posner repeatedly tells us are too immature and unknowledgeable to have viable opinions. Posner also fails to realize that libertarians and conservatives support free market exchange only when it doesn’t violate the rights of others. Voting to take rights away from minority groups is not a function of the free market. There is a term for the majority taking rights away from a minority for their own good. That term is fascism, and Posner does a great job advocating for it.



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Keith Farrell

About Keith Farrell

Keith is a graduate of the University of Connecticut. He has been published at The Daily Caller, PJ Media, London’s City AM, Libertychat, The Libertarian Republic, Bankable Insight, and The Register Citizen. Keith is also the founder and president of the Spirits of ’76 national nonprofit organization

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