Weekly News Digest, No. 12

Welcome to the twelfth installment of the Project on Civil Discourse’s Weekly News Digest, hosted on our Real Talk blog.

On Monday, Marissa Klass reflected on “The Purpose of a Liberal Education,” a recent event hosted by the School of Public Affairs’ Political Theory Institute. Marissa writes: “Challenging conversations generate thoughtful ideas and theories which have the ability to make you reevaluate your most basic values.”

The Project on Civil Discourse was recently featured in The Eagle, American University’s student newspaper. Isabella Goodman interviews Director Lara Schwartz and myself about the impetus behind the Project and the different components we offer.

Free Speech and Discourse in High School

Last week, the Knight Foundation reported findings from a national survey of high school students and their views on free speech. The Knight Foundation found that students express strong support for the First Amendment but support some limits on offensive speech. Students trust the news less, believe social media has a negative effect on free expression, and believe the internet is fueling hate speech, but do not think ‘fake news’ is a threat to democracy. Download the full report here.

In Overland High School in Aurora, CO and in high schools across the country, educators are introducing civil-discourse skills in the classroom and engaging students in challenging discussions. Students are taught to actively listen to their classmates, make evidence-based arguments, and respect others.

Speech on the Internet

On Tuesday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai testified before the House Judiciary Committee on a range of issues, from privacy practices to location tracking to search algorithms. Ali Breland writes for Mother Jones that Congress had an opportunity to question Google on hate speech, the spread of misinformation and their role in radicalizing users. Instead, Republicans chose to press Pichai on Google’s alleged anti-conservative bias.

The Atlantic recently hosted “Free Speech (Un)Limited,” an event covering free speech on campuses, in journalism and tech, and in our political life. Each session is about 20 minutes and can be seen on YouTube.

Speech on Campus

Dr. Cynthia Miller-Idriss and Dr. Jonathan Friedman write that colleges and universities “mistakenly position free speech against hate speech, assuming that protecting free speech means there are constraints on denouncing hate.” Deliberately neutral statements may reflect concerns for avoiding accusations of political bias, but instead make students feel unwelcome and vulnerable. They write that it is possible and essential that “campus leaders strongly condemn hateful incidents and simultaneously affirm the values of free speech and inclusion to their core research and teaching missions.”

Last Monday, UC Berkeley and several conservative campus groups reached a settlement agreement in a 2017 free-speech case. Young America’s Foundation led the lawsuit, which alleged that the university violated the First Amendment by placing prohibitive restrictions on conservative speakers. Berkeleyside reports that both parties consider the settlement a victory

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