On Silence: Student Refrainment From Speech

In Emmett Macfarlane (ed.), Dilemmas of Free Expression. University of Toronto Press. pp. 252-268 (2021)
  Copy   BIBTEX


In this chapter I provide resources for assessing the charge that post-secondary students are self-censoring. The argument is advanced in three broad steps. First, I argue that both a duality at the heart of the concept of self-censorship and the term’s negative lay connotation should incline us to limit the charge of self-censorship to a specific subset of its typical extension. I argue that in general we ought to use the neutral term “refrainment from speech,” reserving the more normatively charged “self-censorship” for cases of bad refrainment. In the second step of the argument, I seek to narrow down what counts as bad refrainment by mapping broad categories of possible reasons for and consequences of refrainment from speech. I argue that in general refrainment from speech is only bad if it is for bad (or what I will later term vicious) reasons or has pernicious consequences. When considering pernicious consequences, I argue that we should be concerned in particular about systems that perpetuate the coercive silencing of marginalized voices. I draw on Kristie Dotson’s work to describe two means by which marginalized voices are systemically silenced: testimonial quieting and testimonial smothering. After considering these types of silencing, I circle back to the post-secondary context to assess whether there is cause for concern if, as some reports suggests, US college students are refraining from speech within the educational context.

Author's Profile

Shannon Dea
University of Regina


Added to PP

526 (#33,069)

6 months
186 (#16,165)

Historical graph of downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks on external links on PhilPapers.
How can I increase my downloads?