Civility and It's Discontents

Topics: Freedom of speech, Censorship Pages: 3 (1048 words) Published: March 7, 2007
The Paradox of Free Speech
As American people, we know that we are entitled to certain rights according to the constitution; one of which is freedom of speech. In Civility and Its Discontents, Leslie Epstein explores the limits and contradictions of this much cherished right when considering whether he would expel a student who wrote racial slurs in the dorm rooms of a University if it was up to him. He discusses this situation and topics that stem from it in an analytical yet somewhat emotionally involved tone and makes the reader reflect on the wide range of information presented about the issues of political correctness, freedom of speech, expulsion, and racism.

In the beginning of the essay, Epstein presents the "moral puzzle" (459) which he has set for himself. Should he expel a student who has written racial slurs on the walls of a dorm hallway? When first considering the issue, most people would have no qualms choosing the option of expulsion. But as the essay progresses, readers are introduced to the many factors which keeps the author from making a rash decision that could affect a student's life in a large way, which in turn makes the reader think about and understand how the ‘not expel" option can be supported. Epstein expresses some strong emotions when thinking about his first reaction to the situation. Statements like "I expect my reactions would be something like this: …rage…zeal for reformation…" and "my emotions boil at the prospect of having to share a campus with such bad apples in it" (459) leave the reader to believe that he is most definitely going to expel the student. However, then he brings up points about how he has a concern, as a writer, for "minimizing censorship in American life," how he doesn't want to seem hypocritical if he expels the student since he himself was expelled twice when he was in school for exercising his right to free speech. He also quotes one black Yale student who stated that "It's much better for people of...
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