How Gaining Knowledge Violates the U.S. First Amendment

Here is an excellent lecture by legal scholar Robert C. Post on why speech must be regulated for an environment to encourage free speech.

Research, Post said, is ultimately based in the notion that not everyone has equal knowledge of a given topic and that expert knowledge is created through disciplinary study. “When we are talking about university research and expanding knowledge, it is resting on a disciplinary hierarchy, which is exactly opposite of the democratic equality on which freedom of speech rests,” he said.

Therefore, in order to perform research and to advance it, he said, universities must discriminate on content, make judgments that some ideas are better than others and compel professors and researchers to speak in order to communicate their knowledge. Though these actions further the mission of a university, he said, they violate the rules of the First Amendment.

In other words (pun not intended) improving knowledge using a process of evaluation with measured results, where some inputs can be judged by an authorized process, violates a political framework designed to maintain power (rights) of ignorance.

This is hardly different than saying a moving environment should be regulated based on science of physics (e.g. dismissing the political controversy about seat belts given basic economics of safety) for society to be more physically safe.

Post continues:

“Any teacher knows that students who are threatened or assaulted don’t listen,” he said. “They don’t learn. So you have to create the conditions under which learning is possible, and you have to regulate the speech in order to advance that goal.” Again, he said, these requirements of good teaching and learning necessarily violate the rules of the First Amendment.


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