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What Baer Gets Wrong About Free Speech

In his recent piece for The New York Times, “What ‘Snowflakes’ Get Right about Free Speech,” Ulrich Baer offers a defense of student groups who disrupt campus speakers.  Baer argues that freedom of speech means “balancing the inherent value of a given view with the obligation to ensure that other members of a given community..

Trade Protectionism in the Marketplace of Ideas

Although young people have long been hailed as more open-minded and politically tolerant than their parents and grandparents, there is evidence that this is no longer the case (see How Marcuse Made Todays Students Less Tolerant). The problem of political intolerance is clearly demonstrated on college campuses in recent months, as student groups clash over..

A Response to John K. Wilson

I would like to thank John K. Wilson for sending me his comments about my HeterodoxAcademy blog and inviting me to respond. There are a lot of points to cover.

First, John K. Wilson disputes my finding that young people today are less tolerant than their parents. He claims “young people only seem modestly intolerant by comparison because older Americans have grown more tolerant to a degree unimaginable in human history.”

In our private email exchange, Wilson defended this argument by pointing to increased tolerance toward homosexuals. Indeed, people are more accepting of alternative lifestyles, minorities, women’s rights, etc. than at any time in the past. But political tolerance is a measure of how we handle disagreement. Tolerant people allow those they consider dangerous to society to speak and participate in the democratic process. Allowing one’s friends and political allies to speak is not a sign of tolerance. Young people may like more people, but they are especially intolerant of disagreement.

How Marcuse made today’s students less tolerant than their parents

When Samuel Stouffer first wrote on political tolerance during the McCarthy era, he concluded that Americans were generally an intolerant bunch. Yet, finding that younger people were more tolerant than their parents, he also concluded that Americans would become more and more tolerant over time, due to generational replacement and increases in education. However, Stouffer did not predict the rise of the New Left, which I argue has reframed our collective notions about free expression, resulting in a significant decline in political tolerance among America’s youth. I develop this argument in a chapter I wrote for Stanley Rothman’s last book, The End of the Experiment, (Rothman, Nagai, Maranto, and Woessner, 2015) My findings are outlined below.