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Monday, December 15, 2008

Today on Political Animals: We're on FIRE

Today on Political Animals, we'll be speaking to a guest from one of our favorite organizations, FIRE: the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

The mission of FIRE is to defend and sustain individual rights at America's colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience—the essential qualities of individual liberty and dignity.

Our guest will be Adam Kissel, the director of FIRE's Individual Rights Defense Program.

Adam Kissel graduated from Harvard University and from the University of Chicago, where he served as Student Liaison to the Board of Trustees and earned an A.M. from the Committee on Social Thought. His academic interests include the history and theory of liberal education, the history and theory of rhetoric, and rhetoric’s relationship with philosophy. He also has served as a professional editor for Nobel laureate James Heckman and for faculty in a variety of disciplines. Before joining FIRE, Adam was a director of the Lehrman American Studies Center and the Jack Miller Center for the Teaching of America’s Founding Principles. With Sharon Browne he wrote a Faculty Rights Handbook in 2007.

We've spoken with Adam before, and found him to be a passionate, articulate defender of free speech on campus. Thus, we're very pleased to have the chance to talk to him again.

Why do we like FIRE so much? First, we're all academics at Political Animals. That means we're particularly concerned about threats to freedom of speech on college campuses. Across the United States and Canada, draconian speech codes stifle debate and ruin lives.

FIRE defends students who run afoul of these speech codes. And the organization gets results.

More than that, we like FIRE because they're extremely non-partisan -- the way the ACLU used to be. FIRE defense of freedom of speech is principled, and they'll help anyone, conservative or liberal.

For example, check out this case: FIRE intervened on behalf an instructor who was in trouble for posting the words of Nietzsche on his door. The professor put up a quotation of the German philosopher -- "God is dead" -- and the campus administration ordered its removal. FIRE got Temple College, in Texas, to back down.

Freedom of speech! FIRE believes in it!

Finally, I personally like FIRE because it is staffed by lawyers.

Today, we're planning to talk with Adam about FIRE's 2009 report on campus speech codes. Here's the bad news: according to the report, "74 percent of schools surveyed maintain policies that clearly restrict speech that, outside the borders of campus, is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution."

We'll be talking about this, and what can be done, at 4 pm, EST, on Political Animals.

You can listen live, over the Internet, here. Apparently, the web streaming has been fixed (it was broken over the past couple of weeks.)

If you like or don't like what you hear, or want to ask Adam a question, please call us at 1-888-7-WBGUFM.

Posted by Terrence Watson on December 15, 2008 | Permalink

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