In the current divisive political climate, Whittington shows why safeguarding the civil exchange of diverse ideas is an...

SPEAK FREELY

WHY UNIVERSITIES MUST DEFEND FREE SPEECH

A timely defense of intellectual debate and critical thinking.

“The ultimate goal of a university community is to foster an environment in which competing perspectives can be laid bare, heard, and assessed,” writes Whittington (Politics/Princeton Univ.; American Political Thought, 2016, etc.) in his cogent—and likely to be controversial—argument for the crucial importance of free speech in academia. A spirited exchange of ideas contributes to the university’s mission “of advancing and disseminating knowledge.” Administrators “cannot be selective in what arguments and perspectives they are willing to let in” and should not give in to any pressure to suppress “forms of expression that they find immoral, embarrassing, offensive, indecent, misguided, or simply unpopular and inconvenient.” Considering students’ demands for safe spaces and trigger warnings, the author acknowledges that in some specifically diagnosed illnesses—PTSD, for example—students can justifiably seek protection from stimuli that might exacerbate symptoms. But in most cases, he has found, students identify as a trigger “anything that happens to remind the individual of a specific past trauma,” and “the insistence on trigger warnings becomes more about the performance of victimhood than a meaningful effort to help actual victims.” Similarly, he concedes that designated spaces where community members find support and affirmation are important, but an academic community as a whole should be a safe space that “emphasizes civility, respect, and acceptance for all members of community.” Citing many recent examples of student protests against speakers such as Charles Murray, at Middlebury; philosopher Peter Singer, at the University of Victoria in Australia; and Milo Yiannopoulos at Berkeley, Whittington argues that obstructionist protesters are not exercising “a protected right to free speech.” Rather, they are shutting down the free exchange of ideas, just as if they were agents of government oppression. The author defends hiring faculty and awarding tenure on the basis of scholarly achievement; “unorthodox, controversial, and even wild-eyed professors” should be valued as “a sign of institutional health.”

In the current divisive political climate, Whittington shows why safeguarding the civil exchange of diverse ideas is an urgent need.

Pub Date: April 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-691-18160-8

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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