Unassailable Ideas: How Unwritten Rules and Social Media Shape Discourse in American Higher Education

December 2, 2020
Unassailable Ideas: How Unwritten Rules and Social Media Shape Discourse in American Higher Education

Open inquiry and engagement with a diverse range of views arelong-cherished and central tenets of higher education and arepivotal to innovation and knowledge creation. Yet, free inquiry onAmerican campuses is hampered by a climate that constrainsteaching, research, and overall discourse. In UnassailableIdeas, Ilana Redstone and John Villasenor examine the dominantbelief system on American campuses, its uncompromising enforcementthrough social media, and the consequences for higher education.They argue that two trends in particular—the emergent role ofsocial media in limiting academic research and knowledge discoveryand a campus culture increasingly intolerant to diverse views andopen inquiry—are fundamentally reshaping higher education. Redstoneand Villasenor further identify and explain how threewell-intentioned unwritten rules regarding identity define thecurrent campus climate. They present myriad case studiesillustrating the resulting impact on education, knowledgecreation-and, increasingly the world beyond campus. They alsoprovide a set of recommendations to build a new campus climate thatwould be more tolerant toward diverse perspectives and openinquiry. An insightful analysis of the current state of academia,Unassailable Ideas highlights an environment in highereducation that forecloses entire lines of research, entirediscussions, and entire ways of conducting classroom teaching.