You know our country is in serious trouble when the voice of reason is a comedian known for making prank calls with puppets. But, alas, here we are. Congratulations, America—you’ve made me, Adam Carolla, the sane one in the room.
I’ve been asked to testify before Congress Thursday morning on the topic of free speech on college campuses. I talk for a living. Words matter to me. I earn my paycheck from making people laugh, but what’s going on across the country at many of our nation’s universities is anything but funny. (See what I did there!)
I realize my brief stint in a San Fernando Valley community college doesn’t necessarily qualify me as the most distinguished, academic spokesperson on the subject. But as someone who has made a career by challenging ideas through humor, social commentary, and if warranted, ridicule; I represent someone on the front line.
I’ve been in the talk game for more than three decades and I host the world’s most downloaded podcast. This constantly brings me in close contact with guests who disagree with me on many subjects. Challenging their ideas and points of views— while they do the same to me— is an important part of public discourse. When we enter into robust debate the best ideas will often rise. It’s when ideas and points of view are censored that our country loses, because we may miss new ideas.
Right now a terrible fog of censorship is seeping into our college campuses in an effort to restrict free speech. It’s like a fart in an elevator—everyone smells it but no one will own it.
When did college move away from being the place where ideas, including the ones we may disagree with, were taught, discussed, and explored? It makes no sense unless the goal is to create people who don’t think about ideas but simply follow them.
What kind of preparation is being provided if we are avoiding discussions on tough subjects? Are true facts and best research being sidelined because it’s taboo to someone’s feelings? Do you really want an engineer who designed the plane you’re flying in to feel that the reality of gravity is a Caucasian micro-aggression because it was discovered by Newton?
Instead of fostering the development of young adults, colleges are providing coloring books, play-doh, puppies, and stuffed animals. It’s basically your four-year-old daughter’s bedroom where one can shut out the challenges and facts of the outside world. Providing this bubble-wrapped type of education does not prepare the next generation for the challenges of life. It prepares them for failure.
But the real blame doesn’t lie with the students. Campus administrators and teachers have promoted these ideas and then retreated to the sidelines when it became violent. How can there be accountability if there is no adult in the room? Why aren’t administrators of public universities accountable to us, the taxpayers, as we continue to fund a Social Justice Neverland, disconnected from the real world of working and regular people.
Ultimately this movement against challenging ideas is a disservice to students as they’re not being prepared for the world outside their “safe spaces.” Instead, their diplomas—some of which cost in the mid six figures—may actually set them back.
America has been the actual “safe space” where truth can be spoken to power. Where “We the People” can challenge a king and a corrupt idea like a monarchy. This right has been re-affirmed through our history. It’s been fought for and people have died for it.
We must understand that we have the right to free expression, not the right to not be offended. This fundamental difference is being lost on today’s college campuses. We should not be teaching students to retreat from debate, but to charge intellectually into it. I’m not joking when I say that this is one of the most valuable and profound gifts given to us in America.