Expanded Edition of Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought

Jonathan Rauch has released an expanded edition of his 1993 classic, Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought. Rauch is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a contributing editor of National Journal and The Atlantic. The original edition of Kindly Inquisitors was a much needed voice during the rise of campus speech codes that began in the late 1980s.
From the expanded edition’s back cover—

“A liberal society stands on the proposition that we should all take seriously the idea that we might be wrong. This means we must place no one, including ourselves, beyond the reach of criticism; it means that we must allow people to err, even where the error offends and upsets, as it often will.” So writes Jonathan Rauch in Kindly Inquisitors, which has challenged readers for more than twenty years with its bracing and provocative exploration of the issues surrounding attempts to limit free speech. In it, Rauch makes a persuasive argument for the value of “liberal science” and the idea that conflicting views produce knowledge within society.

In this expanded edition of Kindly Inquisitors, a new foreword by George F. Will strikingly shows the book’s continued relevance, while a substantial new afterword by Rauch elaborates upon his original argument and brings it fully up to date. Two decades after the book’s initial publication, while some progress has been made, the regulation of hate speech has grown domestically—especially in American universities—and has spread even more internationally, where there is no First Amendment to serve as a meaningful check. But the answer to bias and prejudice, Rauch argues, is pluralism—not purism. Rather than attempting to legislate bias and prejudice out of existence or to drive them underground, we must pit them against one another to foster a more vigorous and fruitful discussion. It is this process that has been responsible for the growing acceptance of the moral acceptability of homosexuality over the last twenty years. And it is this process, Rauch argues, that will enable us as a society to replace hate with knowledge, both ethical and empirical.

Rauch recently spoke to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) about the expanded edition. According to its website, FIRE’s mission “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.”

Sadly, however, there is still much work to be done. The state of free speech on America’s campuses remains troubled. In January, FIRE released its 2014 report on campus speech codes. FIRE found that 58.6% of the 427 colleges and universities analyzed maintain policies that seriously infringe upon students’ speech rights (i.e., these are “red light” schools). FIRE also found that another 35.6% of the schools have “yellow light” policies that overregulate speech on campus. Only 16 schools (3.7%) received a “green light” rating. And nine schools (2.7%) were not rated.