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How American Colleges Gave Birth to Cancel Culture

Over the past few years, people have been targeted in real life and on social media for having “incorrect” views, and some have even been fired from their jobs for “wrongthink.” While many Americans define this as “cancel culture,” many on the left deny its very existence, insisting it’s a right-wing fantasy. Now, a new book, The Canceling of the American Mind, shows how this phenomenon has captured our institutions in the twenty-first century. Here, in an edited excerpt from the book, authors Greg Lukianoff and Rikki Schlott trace how cancel culture grew out of U.S. campuses in the ’60s until finally infiltrating nearly every aspect of American life. . . 

The First Amendment wasn’t created to protect the interests of the rich and powerful. After all, the moneyed and influential have historically been protected by their wealth and power. And the United States didn’t need a special right to protect the will of a majority—that’s what democratic votes are for.

In the end, the First Amendment is primarily needed to protect minority views, unpopular opinions, and the expression of those who clash with the ruling elite.

But on campus today, you’re likely to hear this argument turned entirely on its head—as if championing free speech is somehow doing the bidding of the powerful. But that’s only because academia doesn’t like to admit that it actually is extremely wealthy and influential itself, or that those who defend the status quo are defending an extraordinarily powerful American industry.

Just for some perspective, the market size of the U.S. higher education industry is just over $1 trillion. That’s more than three times larger than the U.S. food and beverage industry and over two times the size of the U.S. electricity industry. For more context, Canada’s GDP in 2021 was $1.9 trillion, Mexico’s $1.3 trillion, and the global pharmaceuticals industry rang in around $1.4 trillion in that same year.

Meanwhile, the collective endowment of U.S. public and private nonprofit universities—which represents just one element of their total assets—sits at $932 billion, according to their 2021 reports. That’s nearly as much as all of Apple’s, Microsoft’s, and Amazon’s total assets. (Plus, you can add in higher education’s $711 billion in tangible assets.)

From a purely financial perspective, the higher education apparatus is among the wealthiest and most influential institutions in the world. But you wouldn’t know that from the way many in academia try to position themselves. Colleges and universities are far from the humble academic hubs they claim to be, but many in higher education have a hard time admitting it’s been a long while since they were the underdogs.

Read more at The Free Press 

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