Stancliff’s Spiel: Public discourse promotes progress

News editor Hayes Stancliff finds himself an argumentative person who attempts to argue everyone and defends his beliefs to the end. This column is a debate haven for those who disagree with what he says, as he replies to most every comment you will make. Feel free to tell him what you think in the comment section below!


Democracies have long debated which limits, if any, should be imposed upon the concept of “free speech.” Maintaining a balance between freedom of speech and public order is a task all democratic institutions face.

This has been brought to the forefront of American culture. Ben Shapiro, a conservative speaker, was invited by students to lecture at California State University, a public institution.

When he arrived, he was stopped by protesters who would not allow him to speak and were threatening Shapiro and his audience. The university refused to break up the unruly mob, and allowed them to disrupt his talk, effectively suppressing Shapiro’s right to free speech in a public setting.

This situation is one of many in which public institutions have neglected their duty as Americans to uphold and maintain the democratic ideal of free speech. I believe that public rhetoric is the foundation of a democratic society and that, without disagreement, it is impossible to refine ideas and determine the truth.

The regulation of free speech is something that has historically proven to yield poor results. According to Fordham University, in 1557 “The Index of Forbidden Books,” was created by Pope Paul IV to suppress works of literature which the Roman Catholic Church opposed.

Future additions to “The Index of Forbidden Books” banned the works of notable scientists and philosophers such as Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilee, and Immanuel Kant, among others.

The notable aspect of “The Index of Forbidden Books,” is that it banned books which have been proven to be scientifically accurate and mark turning points in science, literature, and philosophy.

This censorship of progressive texts cannot be afforded, as the refinement of ideas benefits society as a whole.

Even though these events transpired centuries ago, if we do not learn from the past we are doomed to repeat it.

If members of society cannot accept ideas they do not agree with and engage in a normal conversation with the opposing side, then we have lost hope for the refinement of society. As Margaret Heffernan once said, “for good ideas and innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate.” Without public discourse, we lose ourselves, our country, and our ideals, all of which are vital to the progress of the modern era.

Hayes Stancliff is a News Editor for The Patriot and