College Students No Longer Think 'Freedom Is a Big Deal'

Sociologist Frank Furedi on how to bring liberalism back to campus.


"For the first time, a growing number of young people actually think freedom isn't a big deal," says sociologist Frank Furedi, who's an emeritus professor at the University of Kent and author of the new book, What Happened to the University: a sociological exploration of its infantilisation.

The university was once a place where students valued free speech and risk taking, but today "a very illiberal ethos has become institutionalized," says Furedi. "In many respects, it's easier to speak about controversial subjects outside the university…It's a historic role reversal."

Furedi sat down with Reason's Nick Gillespie to talk about the roots of this intellectual shift on campus—and how to fix it.

Edited by Mark McDaniel. Cameras by Jim Epstein and Kevin Alexander. Music by Bensound.

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  1. How to fix it?

    Well, the answer is exceptionally unpleasant. And that is a total purge of faculty. Turf all of them. When kids go to college, they aren’t thinking “freedom isn’t a big deal”. That is a mentality instilled AT college. So, they have failed.

    Or, have a President willing to take the heat and let them experience, completely, what a lack of freedom is. Loco parentis like there is no fucking tomorrow. Make them squeal under the thumb of the college. Co-ed dorms? Gone. Race-based dorms? Gone. Protests? Gone. Drinking? Gone.

    The kids want the freedoms they like and don’t care about the ones they do not. Perhaps it’s time to let them experience their dreams first-hand. Good and hard.

    1. End student loans too. Free government money for college to waste everyone’s time not learning anything is just not worth it. Plus, if these college kids had to work to pay for school, they would respect the ability to have so many choices of higher learning.

      1. LOL “free government money” . Wish my loans had been free 😛

      2. All the student loans did was inflate the cost of a college education.

    2. I don’t know that I fully agree with the notion that this is all instilled at college. In my experience, a lot of the kids that think like this did so before entering college. With the Internet it’s easy to get exposed to those ideas before ever setting foot on campus.

      1. The internet? You’re going with that instead of compulsory institutionalization?

        1. It’s a combination of things, but yeah a lot of the stuff these people believe they find on the Internet. The Internet is great for a lot of things, and one of those is making it easy to form echo chambers. Most people don’t leave public schools as mindless SJWs. Some people do pick it up there, but I think it shouldn’t be ignored that it’s very easy to find that stuff online and then from there it’s easy to get those ideas perpetually reinforced via echochamber. I don’t think that just goes for leftism, a lot of people pick up beliefs and ideology via the Internet.

          And of course for some of these people it starts with their parents.

        2. Sure, why not? It’s relatively new. Whereas “compulsory institutionalization” as you call it isn’t. So if you want to argue that there’s a new problem, it’s a lot easier to point at the new thing, not the status quo.

          1. It is far more simple than all of the factors in summary.

            Indoctrination works.
            Americans public schools and many private schools use the terms community and service as their ethos.
            This is simply preaching the collective which by its nature abandons any quest for freedom.
            The entire US education system has been on a crash course for leftist group think for a century.

            They have won. What do people expect?

            1. What do people expect?
              Internal consistency.

              If public schools are indoctrinating kids into leftist ideaology for generations, why aren’t we all leftists by now? The whole “homeschooling” thing really can’t account for all the non-leftists out there.

              1. You sound disappointed.

                1. I am. Lazy thinking makes for boring conversation.

          2. It’s not a new phenomenon but it’s scope has been consistently increasing. More people spend more time in (and are more dependent on for credentials, information, and even employment) public institutions, which are more ideologically home generous than they were at any point I. Recent history.

      2. The level of individual freedom that students used to have in grade school and high school is mostly gone today. Just pointing your finger at someone and saying “bang” is enough today to get you either kicked out or face serious discipline. Or just having a pocket knife (like I had in school back in the 1940’s) would get you expelled today.

        Life for children in the “Blue” states isn’t much different from what a Russian child would have experienced back when the Soviet Union was still a going concern.

    3. ^ This. Most of these rules, by the way, could be enforced by merely following the guide in the student handbook. Those handbooks still contain a bunch of Victorian era rules on drinking, possession of alcohol/drugs, and having unauthorized “sleepovers”.

      1. What about ‘play dates’ and how to use ‘time-outs’?

    4. You don’t have to purge faculty. All you have to do is purge taxpayer money from universities and the shitty faculty will wither away from the lack of market.

    5. The answer is an economic depression where fat and lazy will no longer be an option.

    6. I think they learn it even earlier. In grades 1 through 12.

      Plus, as a libertarian leaning chemistry professor, I’m not
      sure I am part of the problem and need to be turfed.

      1. I’ve referred your case to Tyrion. You are excused

    7. A total purge of faculty doesn’t sound unpleasant to me.

  2. College Students No Longer Think ‘Freedom is a Big Deal’

    Well…freedom for other people is no big deal. Freedom for themselves to shut down campus, yell in professors’ faces, and start fights matters a whole lot to them.

    1. Exactly. You can learn a lot about people by watching animals. Let’s take the notion of equality. Animals are a great example of equality of results but only in self interest. For example, if you have two dogs and give one a treat that dog doesn’t care if you give the other dog a treat only that it got it. Conversely the other is only concerned if it didn’t get one. People only care about equality if they are at a disadvantage. They don’t want to give up what they have to make the results equal for others. To make the left’s ideology work they have to blame the 1%. They can’t tell the middle class that they have to share through forced redistribution.

  3. I have a boy in High School and he’s aware of how much the left hates him (his hobbies are weightlifting, football, and target shooting). Freedom is a big deal to him and I know some of his friends feel the same way. He’s already thinking about colleges to apply to based at least partially on their politics. He wants to visit Hillsdale College next summer.

    1. I would also consider the larger state schools. They are big enough that you can avoid most of the nonsense and find enough non-crazies to hang out with.

    2. I agree with TLAH, go to a state school. There will a lot of highly vocal crazies there, but the majority of students are decent. Don’t go to Hillsdale it’s just a giant right-wing safe space which produces a different brand of crazy.

      1. The curriculum there on western civilization actually interests him.

    3. … Y’know, I get that you’re trying to present this as a scare story, but all I can think of is “y’know that’s what every minority has to do, right?”

      I mean, that’s precisely what I (gay man) did when I was going to college, and when I was looking for employment after college, “office culture” was in my list of questions.

      Face it, that’s Freedom of Speech and Association right there. Freedom ain’t always pretty.

      1. So, freedom for me but not thee?

        How noble.

        If the little fascists want to be fascists, let them experience their goals and desires in all of their glory.

        “What do you mean I can’t smoke weed?!?!?”

        1. “So, freedom for me but not thee?”
          Seeing as I was pointing out that his scare story has been other people’s reality for years, I’m not sure that’s a proper characterization.

          1. I am unaware of major corporations anytime in recent memory where the expression of pro-homosexual bad think resulted in a real risk of violence or termination. Not so in snowflake land. If you are talking about gay people in 1962 you probably have a point but not for any work place in recent memory. There is only one fascist game in town today and its the SJW left.

            1. I reject your goal-posts.

              Us has a labor force of around 160 million.

              I have no idea what you’re defining as a “major corporation”, but the Small Buisness Association calls it an employer with 500 or fewer employees. Seems generous to me, but at the same time if you have 500 or fewer, you’re certainly not a “major corporation”.

              And by their definition, those “small businesses” make up something around 99% of employers and 40% of private-sector payroll.

              So yeah. Your “major corporations” goal-post is bullshit and not relevant to millions of people.

    4. Just send him to a large state -southern- school that has a decent rep like University of Texas. There are all kinds of groups on campus. Left, Right, “Don’t Give a Fuck where’s my weed”. It’s these shitty little places that have the most issues. College is for education, not for becoming a political shrew or zealot.

  4. From about age 6 to age 18, we force kids to go to school by law. We legally bar them from gambling and drinking alcohol until they’re 21. The reason that college kids don’t think freedom is a big deal is because we’ve been demonstrating that fact to them for most of their lives.

    1. Pretty much. You see a huge difference in the politics of teenagers based on whether or not they have part-time jobs. The ones that see taxes withheld from paychecks have a foot in reality that the others do not.

      1. In that case… blame the adults. Most jobs that used to be part-time jobs for teens are now full-time jobs for adults (or part-time jobs for adults that had multiple part-time jobs).

        And those adults aren’t moving on to better jobs because either (A) there aren’t better jobs, or (B) they aren’t qualified for the better jobs. And you can piss and moan about how people should do this or that to improve their qualifications, but the bottom-line is that there just aren’t that many work opportunities for teenagers anymore.

        So if that’s what you think is missing with kids these days… blame the adults that changed the status quo and the options open to teens.

        1. Don’t forget the minimum wage.

          1. As of 2011, the average age of lower chamber state legislators was 56.7 with a min of 22 and max of 92. Standard deviation wasn’t given for the national, but from a quick scan it looks like it’s around 10 or so. Upper chamber was largely similar, average of 57.4, min of 25, max of 87, with a standard deviation that was probably around 10.

            Voter turn-out we also see skewed to older folks. In 2016 it was something like 70% of 60+ folks voted, while only ~40% of 18-29 folks voted. And that’s pretty stable for presidential elections going back decades.

            So yeah, even if you want to point to legislation… it’s all you old fucks that done fucked it up.

        2. In that case… blame the adults

          Luckily, the guy who wrote the book does exactly that.

          1. Unless “Fuck You – Cut Spending” is actually a British Socialist by the name of Frank Furedi, then I wasn’t responding to the author of the book, I was responding to someone else who doesn’t have a bibliography for me to peruse.

        3. I’ve never seen college student who wanted a job that didn’t get one.

          1. For the sake of argument, let’s accept your statement at face value.

            “Fuck-You Cut Spending” was talking about teenagers. While there is some overlap between “teenager” and “college student”, you’re kind of moving the goal post.

        4. Are you saying that we should NOT allow millions of illegal unskilled folks into the country because they’re taking jobs away from our kids?

          Or are you saying that those “adults” might be folks who got useless college degrees in “woman’s studies” or “Peruvian basket weaving” and can’t get the corner office job they thought?

          Or is it that the previous presidents policies didn’t really get the economy booming enough to get those adults back to work full time?

          1. So many assumptions to de-construct…

            Okay first, if you actually look at the threat of conversation, you’ll see that I was responding to “Fuck-You Cut Spending” complaint about “kids” not working. I didn’t say a thing about what anyone “should” do, besides properly identify that if kids aren’t getting jobs, it’s (broadly speaking) not their fault.

            Second, if you look at the history of white collar non-STEM work in America, a liberal arts degree used to be a stable ticket to the middle class. And again, kids aren’t choosing their majors in a vacuum. They’re often going after whatever their parents/mentors encouraged them to go after. And let’s be honest, if you’re 17/18 and you’re assured that your Liberal Arts degree is your ticket to a good white collar job, you don’t know enough to know that’s no longer true. And to be fair, the people telling them that probably don’t realize it either. Face it, what a non-STEM degree gets you has changed, but the people encouraging kids to go to college are basing their mentoring on their experience from twenty years prior.

            So again, blame the parents.

            And third, trying to blame long-term trends (and the employment trends for old and young alike go back way more then eight years) on any single president is partisan pattycake and not a serious argument.

  5. You have an entire industry that has become dependent upon taxpayer money – also known as “coercion.” Therefore it is only logical that the majority in that industry would no longer care about freedom.

    The same thing happened to German universities in the 19th century post-Napoleon as socialism took root. Before Hitler rose to power German universities were already becoming dependent on the state.

    1. So, Hitler is the solution. I knew it!

      1. No, Hitler was the final solution.

  6. Gee, I hadn’t notice.

    A new grotesque variation of existentialism has taken root and it goes by the motto of ‘what’s the big deal?’

    Awaits for Square and Gilmore.

    1. I agree with Nick: people should beat their children.

  7. So this is the equality feminists fight for? Schools should tell the accuser to call the cops. If there is a felony arrest the person is suspended. If there is a conviction they are expelled.

      1. Are you sure?

        1. Are YOU?

  8. Reading his bio now I’m really confused.

    “As a humanist educator, he is critical of the attempt to subject schooling to technocratic and instrumentalist policy making.[7]”

    Yet he’s a communist? How do you reconcile freedom/liberty with socialism/communism?

    1. I was wondering the same thing about him…

    2. I’m assuming Nick didn’t ask questions like that in the interview, which is why I didn’t bother watching it nor would I waste a second reading a rushed transcript.

      1. Except his points in the video are vey much in line with conservative/libertarian principles and not with commie/pinko crap.

        But it’s commies and socialists who looked to consistently close down speech or were censorious.

        It’s all so Bizarro World.

        1. But it’s commies and socialists who looked to consistently close down speech or were censorious.

          That’s a habit of anyone in power, regardless of their ideology. The only ideologies that can claim their hands are clean are the ones that never got in power.

          1. That’s the point though isn’t it. All power is corrupt and the natural course of abuse of power is fascism, then socialism, then communism in many ways. Venezuela will be perfect example of watching the state take all power by force until it totally fails.

            Unfortunately, idiot lefties never realize how bad the state is until their buddy dies next to them in bloody protest.

            The power of brainwashing takes bloodshed to reverse

      2. You made assumptions about what a person would say, and therefore didn’t bother to listen or read. In a nutshell, that is the anti-intellectual state of the West, including self-described libertarians.

    3. I think there’s a fairly large segment of people who reconcile that — who consider economic freedom “less valuable” than intellectual freedom, and who, as communists/socialists in a more-or-less democratic society, see their favored policies as objectives that can be achieved through persuasion and democratic process rather than government coercion.

      Deluded though I agree they are, they’re at least communists/socialists with the courage of their convictions — they believe their views can be supported in honest debate, and don’t try to shut opposing views down.

    4. A lot of commies seem to think that you can effectively separate economic and other kinds of freedom. If you really want to know the answer to your question, you could read what they write on the subject, but it’s probably not worth the trouble.

      Obviously, I think they are wrong, but there are a lot of anarcho-communist types in the world who think that free people will voluntarily give up their economic lives to the collective. I suspect those are the communists who defend free expression.

      We make a lot of jokes about it, but many really do believe that the USSR, etc. were doing it wrong. Of course, the reason they did it wrong (aside from just being tyranical assholes seeking power) is because doing it “right” was never going to happen since it is so contrary to human nature.

      1. there are a lot of anarcho-communist types in the world who think that free people will voluntarily give up their economic lives to the collective

        when i meet them, i tend to ask them, “Do you own anything? (a house, a car, investments, etc)”

        the answer is generally “no.”

    5. Yet he’s a communist? How do you reconcile freedom/liberty with socialism/communism?

      He’s probably old eastern-communism. Which meant you had to get your ass out of the house and working in the factory because life was nasty, brutish and short.

    6. Yet he’s a communist? How do you reconcile freedom/liberty with socialism/communism?

      And why is he viewed respectfully?

      If he was, say, a Nazi and said the same things, nobody would respect that because he was a Nazi.

      The only difference between Stalin and Hitler was the body count.

  9. The shithead millennials have been ruined years before they entered college. No respect for the first amendment at all.
    They seem to have been well trained to be the great white racist hunters.

    1. To be fair, we were all idiots at that age. Doesn’t matter how much our parents or schools tried to prepare us to be adults, we lacked actual hand on experience at being adult.

      There are exceptions of course. Some had to get jobs not just to pay for their toys, but had to get jobs in order to put food on the table. Some had to run the household when their parent got sick. Some had to learn to survive. But most of us, I suspect, ran headlong into adulthood and knocked ourselves unconscious.

      1. I meant that they are being taught these attitudes in school. When you see white kids babbling on about white priviledge they aren’t picking up those ideas from family and friends. They may grow out of it, many of the boomers did when they hit their 30s.

        1. They may grow out of it, many of the boomers did when they hit their 30s.

          Did they?

          1. Most did.

            Ownership of private property tends to make one a realist. Particularly when others want to take that property from you via various power schemes.

  10. I like what he says about the self-esteem issue. We’ve got children who are immediately pumped with what one person proudly declared “oodles of self-esteem!”. When people are full of self-esteem for merely existing within the elite fraternity that consists of everyone else on the planet, it’s not surprising you’re going to have problems.

    ps: Nick, how did you “hear” that he said he’s advocating ‘hitting your children’.

    1. Nick’s devil’s advocacy flew right by you.

  11. The thing about millenials is thAt since they are such big pussies, a man can take on about 20 of ’em.

  12. You need to separate the millennials and the teenagers coming up now. The Gen Z kids are going to be a lot more conservative.

    My 13yo cousin works, loves to work, and his friends have a better attitude / work ethic than many of the 30-year olds I know. Also, on a skype call with him, one of his friends, and my roommate… my roommate tried to pull some SJW crap and they were having none of it.

  13. The one thing this guy says (in passing) which should scare people is that the way college kids act today is how public school teachers are going to be thinking tomorrow.

    basically, the worst of the SJW types are likely to end up teaching in your local high school.

  14. Freedom ISN’T a big deal to sheep that have been told WHAT to think. It still is a big deal to students that are taught HOW to think.

  15. We’re seeing the full blossoming of the Therapeutic State against which Thomas Szasz warned for so many decades.

  16. Millennials are a fascist generation, like the Italians in the 1920s and Germans in the 1930s. They are deeply conformist and collectivist, value security over anything.

    1. Italians were nothing of the sort – that’s why it failed. Or at least why Mussolini didn’t have the control like Hitler did over their respective populations.

      Mussolini made noise, he managed to gain power but when it came to putting it all together, the anti-authoritarian mean streak in Italians who tend to question authority much more than Northern Europeans kicked in.

  17. I don’t think that that’s something that should be fixed. It is what it is, everything changes. The same with the way how to do your assignment, 5-10 years ago it was different. This change is a natural order of things, If the necessity or priority of something lowered, it does not mean that something is wrong

  18. You can tell he’s British by his teeth.

  19. Come on. In just about every important way most college students are idiots. Sure, great test scores and GPA’s, but pretty clueless about life.

    1. Looking back, I would have to say that I was that way too. But, not as bad as my peers. I was working and going to college. Pretty much self financed. That kept me a bit above idiocy.

  20. Y’know what else isn’t a big deal? College students’ opinions.

  21. Modern day college is effectively the process of indoctrinating and dumbing dumb of the youth of the country.

  22. People love to think that the way college students think is like asking broad question but ask for specific answers. Is that true? Because I believe no matter what you are, the way someone’s think is based on the individual.


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  27. one thing this guy says (in passing) which should scare people is that the way college kids act today is how public school teachers are going to be thinking tomorrow.

  28. I don’t think this is something which we should worry about or try to change it.

  29. Freedom ISN’T a big deal to sheep that have been told WHAT to think. It still is a big deal to students that are taught HOW to think.

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  33. Well…freedom for other people is no big deal. Freedom for themselves to shut down campus, yell in professors’ faces, and start fights matters a whole lot to them.

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