A Thoughtful Look Into Things
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Resolved: Public colleges and universities in the United States ought not restrict any constitutionally protected speech.
Is this a joke? Why do we insist on making our high school students dumber? I hope people understand that public colleges and universities actually legally cannot restrict constitutionally protected speech. You’re allowed to burn a flag on campus if you want, and #sorrynotsorry, it’s legal. What is this topic attempting to do? Have students debate ‘safe spaces?’ Or are we trying to create a debate between the ideas of absolute free speech and politically correct speech? I just don’t understand. The great tragedy is that you’re forcing people to argue for an entirely un-arguable position. But, whatever, I guess that’s just me.
Public colleges and universities – These are institutions which are funded primarily through public money e.g. taxes and the like. It’s a pretty simple distinction, and the reason it’s included is because private institutions are basically allowed to do what they want. It’s the same difference between public and private high schools.
Constitutionally protected speech – This resolution should not turn into a debate about what is actually protected under the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court has already made those decisions, and that is the scope we have to deal with. Most speech is protected, so long as it doesn’t cause any imminent danger to any person, or it doesn’t declare intent of violence like a threat to kill someone. If you want more clarification, you can look up the relevant case law, but again, don’t over complicate it.
Ought – This is the more important word in the resolution. You have to determine how public colleges and universities determine what they should do. Unlike most LD topics, the agent of action here isn’t an individual or a government, but rather a public institution. The evaluation becomes a little trickier as a result.
- Quality of Education – A college’s primary directive is to provide the best education possible to prepare students for the real world. Hindering any free speech diminishes the quality of education a person receives. Free speech is not censored in the real world, and students need to understand how to deal with a variety of different ideas.
- Justice – Aristotle said the first virtue of any social institution is justice. Justice demands that freedom of speech not be restricted. Simple.
- It’s a Crime – Restricting constitutionally protected speech is unconstitutional! So, obviously, it shouldn’t be done.
- Moral Conflict – Moral progress cannot occur without moral conflict. Ideas need to be free to compete, and when educational institutions restrict speech, they restrict that competition. This ensures that destructive ideologies will continue to exist and proliferate rather than being exposed and rejected.
- Utilitarianism – Restricting free speech does not eliminate it. By restricting it, we create a world which promotes happiness for a greater number of people.
- Virtue Ethics – Aristotelean ethics tell us to find the middle ground between two extremes. In this case, the virtuous course is limited restrictions which allow students to feel safe while still allowing for free and quality education.
- Moral Precedent – Restricting speech sets an important precedent that freedom of speech is a responsibility and needs to be treated as such. It creates an educational system which teaches students to be considerate and compassionate, creating a better society.
Hope that helps. Good luck!