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Free Speech and Democracy

Semester and Year FA 2018
Course Number IDSEM-UG1144
Section 001
Instructor Paul Thaler
Days W
Time 6:20 PM - 9:00 PM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   SOC


This course may be combined with a 2-unit, competitive internship arranged by Gallatin. Internship information will be forthcoming.


The tension between free expression and social control has shadowed the Great American Conversation since the birth of this country. The constitutional ideal that our government "shall make no law" abridging free speech has given way, in fact, to laws that limit discussion, ostensibly for the public good. Likewise, new media technologies advance our ability to access and exchange ideas and information, but raise new questions as to the limits of such dialogue. This course, then, addresses the delicate balance between free speech and democracy, guided by seminal readings from Milton, Locke, Meikeljohn, among others, as well as important Supreme Court decisions that have critically shaped First Amendment rights in regard to hate speech, pornography, corporate control of mass media, the student press and the rights of journalists. The course also takes a case-study approach to issues related to free speech in wartime and political crisis, a tension made evident in recent debates over privacy rights and national security. With this foundation, we ask: Are there any forms of free speech that should be restricted? If so, which? And, who should decide?


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)