Our universities are being scrubbed clean. Censorship, political correctness and ‘hypersensitivity’ are washing away ideas, subjects – even words – on campus in case they cause offence or discomfort.
‘Trigger warnings’ and ‘microagressions’, which in years-gone-by would have been considered harmless, are now actively avoided in the fear of causing the smallest of offence. Speech is no longer Free.
In recent years, Free Speech has come under attack from every angle – controversial speakers have been invited then dis-invited, literature long part of the curriculum has been censored and banished, students have been shamed for unintended slights and issues such as race, religion and culture have become taboo, gated off from discussion by the thought-police.
"Shielding students from difficult issues actually runs counter to the charter of tertiary education – to nourish and enrich the mind and expand the horizons of its students."
Not only is this coddling condescending to the collective, it presumes an extraordinary level of emotional and mental fragility amongst the student fraternity. It seeks to quarantine students from emotional ‘trauma’, shielding them from what they deem ‘uncomfortable’. Those who challenge this viewpoint are then branded as insensitive, hateful, racist, or worse.
Shielding students from difficult issues actually runs counter to the charter of tertiary education – to nourish and enrich the mind and expand the horizons of its students. Research has found that protecting students from trauma and discomfort in their development years does nothing to assist them, it stunts their growth and development, leaving them with no skills to cope with difficulties in the real world.
University, once a harden battleground of ideas, is in danger of institutionalising itself and becoming a padded cell bereft of meaningful thought, outcomes or even learning.
"Whatever happened to the eternal line: Don’t teach students what to think; teach them how to think?"
The Australian Conservatives are fighting back against this tide, determined to make universities what they were always meant to be – places of debate, discussion, of free thought. Places where ideals are fought over, where cultural ideas meet in a melting pot and where different experiences are shared and enjoyed. Students should never be afraid to speak their mind and engage with the difficult issues.
Celebrate Free Speech by getting involved in Free Speech Week. Invite a controversial speaker to you university, host debates, competitions, and invite all to attend, even those offended by the very idea of Free Speech. Share items on social media promoting Free Speech, underlining its importance to our society and long-term democracy. As one of the cornerstones of modern democracy, it must be defended and fought for.
As the great Ronald Reagan said: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. It must be fought for, protected, and handed down for our children to do the same.”
Stand up for Free Speech this week and host your own conservative action plan.