The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

Academic Freedom

My New Book on Academic Freedom Now Available

You Can't Teach That! is in fine bookstores now


My new book, You Can't Teach That! The Battle over University Classrooms, is now available in cloth, paper, and electronic formats. You can own a copy today!

From the marketing materials:

Who controls what is taught in American universities – professors or politicians?

The answer is far from clear but suddenly urgent. Unprecedented efforts are now underway to restrict what ideas can be promoted and discussed in university classrooms. Professors at public universities have long assumed that their freedom to teach is unassailable and that there were firm constitutional protections shielding them from political interventions. Those assumptions might always have been more hopeful than sound. A battle over the control of the university classroom is now brewing, and the courts will be called upon to establish clearer guidelines as to what – if any – limits legislatures might have in dictating what is taught in public universities.

In this path-breaking book, Keith Whittington argues that the First Amendment imposes meaningful limits on how government officials can restrict the ideas discussed on university campuses. In clear and accessible prose, he illuminates the legal status of academic freedom in the United States and shows how existing constitutional doctrine can be deployed to protect unbridled free inquiry.

I'm delighted to have received kind words on the advance manuscript from Floyd Abrams and Jonathan Rauch.

The book reviews the history and principles of the academic freedom to teach in American universities and explains the value and limits of such a freedom to teach. It also explores how such principles of academic freedom might fit into First Amendment doctrine and the implications for the recent wave of state legislation represented most notably by Florida's Stop WOKE Act. If you are interested in free speech, higher education, or the First Amendment, I hope you will give it a read.

I'd also be delighted to discuss such issues in public, whether virtually or in person, as scheduling permits.