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Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate [Kindle Edition]

Greg Lukianoff
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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 debate, our campuses are supercharging ideological divisions, promoting groupthink, and encouraging an unscholarly certainty about complex issues.

Lukianoff walks readers through the life of a modern-day college student, from orientation to the end of freshman year. Through this lens, he describes startling violations of free speech rights: a student in Indiana punished for publicly reading a book, a student in Georgia expelled for a pro-environment collage he posted on Facebook, students at Yale banned from putting an F. Scott Fitzgerald quote on a T shirt, and students across the country corralled into tiny “free speech zones” when they wanted to express their views.

But Lukianoff goes further, demonstrating how this culture of censorship is bleeding into the larger society. As he explores public controversies involving Juan Williams, Rush Limbaugh, Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins, Larry Summers—even Dave Barry and Jon Stewart—Lukianoff paints a stark picture of our ability as a nation to discuss important issues rationally. Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate illuminates how intolerance for dissent and debate on today’s campus threatens the freedom of every citizen and makes us all just a little bit dumber.

Editorial Reviews


"Lukianoff is an engaging exposer of the shocking repression of free speech on campus, combining good storytelling with clear principles and a serious purpose with a light touch." — Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, author of The Blank Slate and The Better Angels of Our Nature

"Unlearning Liberty is a must read book for anyone concerned about the constitutional future of our nation." — Nat Hentoff, journalist, author of Free Speech for Me—But Not for Thee

"Here's a book full of sunlight—the best disinfectant for campus censorship." — Jonathan Rauch, guest scholar, Brookings Institution, author of Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought

“Destined to be a classic work on freedom in America.” — Donald Alexander Downs, Alexander Meiklejohn Professor of Political Science, Law, and Journalism, University of Wisconsin-Madison, author of Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus

“American universities have been described as islands of intolerance in a sea of freedom. Unlearning Liberty is a meticulous and inspiring guide on how to liberate the islands!” — Christina Hoff Sommers, resident scholar, American Enterprise Institute, author of The War Against Boys

“Lukianoff argues brilliantly and with wit for the importance of free expression in a society that hopes to produce free human beings rather than craven conformists.” — Daphne Patai, professor, Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, University of Massachusetts Amherst, author of What Price Utopia?

“Unlearning Liberty shows why free speech rights on campus are more important than ever, and how controversy is still a great teacher.” — Mary Beth Tinker, plaintiff in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District

“Beautifully written and powerfully argued … an essential wake-up call!" — Nadine Strossen, Professor of Law, New York Law School, former President, American Civil Liberties Union (1991-2008), author of Defending Pornography: Free Speech, Sex, and the Fight for Women’s Rights

About the Author

Greg Lukianoff is an attorney and president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. His writings on campus free speech have appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe, in addition to dozens of other publications. A regular columnist for the Huffington Post, he has frequently appeared on television, including CBS Evening News and Stossel. He received the 2008 Playboy Foundation Freedom of Expression Award and the 2010 Ford Hall Forum’s Louis P. and Evelyn Smith First Amendment Award on behalf of FIRE. Lukianoff is a graduate of American University and Stanford Law School.

Product Details

  • File Size: 857 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Encounter Books (October 23, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009NRF9UW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #279,567 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
64 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book - Unfortunately for liberty October 23, 2012
By Peter
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Can't say it any better than Ken at (awesome free speach legal blog).

In Unlearning Liberty, Greg reviews the different occasions and excuses for censorship in modern American universities, marshaling a bewildering array of case studies. Some were familiar to me: the ludicrous reaction to posters at University of Wisconsin-Stout, the legal threats to critics of the administration of Peace College, and the entirely repellent tale of Indiana University punishing a student worker for reading a book about struggles against the Klan in front of coworkers. Many others were new to me -- and I follow FIRE fairly closely. Greg has a talent for describing instances of censorship in a way to outrage me anew even if I have heard of them before. (For instance, I defy anyone to read about the University of Delaware's frankly Stalinist reeducation program for frosh without feeling disgust and contempt; Greg offers new details that led me to put the book down and go take a walk for a while.)

But this is not merely a compilation of cases. Greg traces the history of campus censorship after the "political correctness" disputes of the 1990s, and weaves the incidents of censorship together to explain how different vaguely defined ideas (like "harassment" and "disruption" and "civility") are used in an unprincipled manner as trump cards to shut people up. Moreover, Greg rather convincingly illustrates how university censorship impacts the attitudes and tolerances of students, and explains why we should fear that students taught to submit to censorship and due process violations will not be reliable supporters of free expression or due process as voting adults.
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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The book "UNLEARNING LIBERTY" is an insightful look into academia today and although Lukianoff points to the many administrators that have run an 'underground railroad' of sorts to funnel abused students and faculty to legal remedy... there are far too many administrators and faculty who feel that it is their right to restrict the rights of others, punish the guilty without due process and destroy the careers and lives of the innocent.

The book chronicles many of the cases of FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) over a ten year period. Some will make you mad, some will make you cry. This book should be given to every freshman entering a college or university today... so they know what their rights are... where they can appeal if they find themselves unfairly under the administrative boot... and, most importantly, that they are not alone.

So, whether you are on the left or the right of the political spectrum, you will find this book quietly disturbing.... and a must read.

Roger Freberg
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Frightening, But Important October 23, 2012
Greg's book is important because it establishes convincingly that American institutions of higher education are teaching intolerance of dissent and acceptance of various forms of censorship. The cases Greg describes show that this is not a partisan issue -- the words and ideas being suppressed are being attacked from all sides of the political spectrum, and sometimes out of non-partisan hostility towards criticism. Young adults educated in modern American universities can't be expected to support freedom of expression as adult citizens if they are taught to disdain it as students.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
Greg Lukianoff is one of the key figures in a 'watchdog' group called FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education). Similar to a group like the ACLU, fire is devoted to protecting students' speech and due process rights on college campuses. The fact is that most people don't seem to know - or are not concerned about - the extent to which many schools do censor student speech: from relegating student speech to small "free speech zones," to painfully ambiguous speech codes that ban everything from insensitive jokes to "inappropriately directed laughter," to out-and-out residence life programs designed around imbuing students with the "correct" political messages. This book not only profiles dozens of such cases, but makes a strong argument as to why all of us - whether in college or not - suffer as a result.

These chapters are organized in a sort of 'chronological order' based on a student's academic career. So, the first chapter focuses on student rights in high schools (which FIRE doesn't per se deal with, but are important for setting up the rest of the book). The next several chapters focus on things like the 'residence life programs' mentioned earlier - like the one at my current university, the U of Delaware. (I won't explain it here; you can easily find out more online.) Later chapters focus on how free speech and expression is often stifled in the classroom and how, in some cases, students have been made to engage in political acts with which they may not disagree as a condition for passing a class or graduating a program! Lastly, we focus on issues where professors have been removed from departments for speech that someone somewhere judged to be offensive (like the history professor who was asked to resign for using the word 'wetback' in class....
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I am afraid to tell you what I really think. October 26, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase

This is a great book, but it criticizes college administrators. If they find out I liked it or considered it to include important ideas, I might get into trouble. And my children might not even get into college.


I feel much better now. See you in detention.

- Dave

P.S. This is a great book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must-Read for Students, Alumni, Faculty, Free Speech Advocates, and...
Anyone who spends the slightest amount of time in higher education these days could lament the sad state of discourse. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Aaron
3.0 out of 5 stars A little too black and white
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. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Bookphile
5.0 out of 5 stars Unlearning Liberty
I had heard from friends that their children had some problems on campus. I didn't think too much of it at the time. Reading this book opened my eyes to more than I had heard. Read more
Published 2 months ago by A. Zakowski
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book. Should frighten liberals and conservatives alike
Written by an atheist liberal, this book will find followers on all sides of modern political and religious debate. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Useful Part
Not ended--this is a useful check-up place to deal with the use of language that remains a concern, e.g. sexing.
Published 4 months ago by Robert J. O'Brien
1.0 out of 5 stars lousy
What garbage. The writer keeps saying the same thing again and again. I want my time back from reading this junk. Boring.
Published 5 months ago by A. khan
4.0 out of 5 stars Scary stuff
I almost didn't pick this up ... thought it would be an "us v them" sort of thing. It was surprisingly even handed and should be a must read for those on both ends of the political... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Feisty
5.0 out of 5 stars An important book.
If you value free speech, a must have. Free speech is so important for our country and Greg Lukinoff has written a real eye opener.
Published 5 months ago by Robin Dobson
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking challenge for our time and our legacy
This book provides a fascinating overview of the threat to our society that is being fostered by the attack on free speech on our college campuses today. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Roger Knight
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent review of todays campus.
Highly recommend this, to help bring some clarity to at least one aspect of why so many of our college graduates seem unprepared for working and living in the real world.
Published 9 months ago by terry r.
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More About the Author

Greg Lukianoff is an attorney and the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). He is the author of "Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate" and his writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Boston Globe, in addition to dozens of other publications. He is a regular columnist for The Huffington Post and has frequently appeared on television shows, including the "CBS Evening News," "Fox & Friends," and "Stossel." He received the 2008 Playboy Foundation Freedom of Expression Award and the 2010 Ford Hall Forum's Louis P. and Evelyn Smith First Amendment Award on behalf of FIRE. He is a graduate of American University and Stanford Law School.

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