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Constitutional Freedoms

Betsy DeVos Blasts Lack of Free Speech on Nation’s College Campuses

The ability to express ourselves 'defines what it means to be human,' emphasized the secretary of education

On Monday U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos denounced the lack of free speech pervading today’s college campuses in remarks at the National Constitution Center’s annual Constitution Day celebration in Philadelphia, according to reporting from The Daily Wire.

“As the purpose of learning is forgotten, ignored or denied, we are inundated daily with stories of administrators and faculty manipulating marketplaces of ideas,” she said.

DeVos was not engaging in hyperbole.

States across the country are finally waking up to the realization that college campuses have, time and again, used heavy-handed, Orwellian tactics such as free speech zones and security fees to limit the freedom of expression of conservatives.

So far, more than 20 states have either introduced or passed legislation defending freedom of speech on public college campuses.

Meanwhile, “Our Constitution became the standard for freedom-loving people throughout the world by design, not by accident,” said DeVos, noting that the framers gathered at the same spot more than 230 years ago, “willingly and freely — to discuss, debate and propose to the states a national government that would restrain itself by empowering its people.”

She continued, “Our ‘first freedoms’ — and what we do with them — shape our lives. The freedom to express ourselves —through our faith, through our speech, through the press, through assembly or through petition — defines much of what it means to be human.”

DeVos also said, “This freedom, preserved in our Declaration of Independence, comes from the truth that our rights are endowed by our Creator, not by any man-made government.”

She reminded those gathered that at one time this idea was “self-evident” to all.

“But along the way, these founding principles have been taken for granted. Today, freedom — and the defense of it — is needed more than ever, especially on our nation’s campuses.”

Case in point: “Administrators too often attempt to shield students from ideas they subjectively decide are ‘hateful’ or ‘offensive’ or ‘injurious,’ or ones they just don’t like,” she said. “This patronizing practice assumes students are incapable of grappling with, learning from or responding to ideas with which they disagree.”

Amid a pervasive campus culture of moral relativism, the remarks from DeVos couldn’t come soon enough.

Related: College Professors Organize Against Free Speech on the Nation’s Campuses

“The issue is that we have abandoned truth,” she stated bluntly. “Learning is nothing if not a pursuit of truth. Truth – and the freedom to pursue it — is for everyone, everywhere. Regardless of where you were born, who your parents are or your economic situation, truth can be pursued and it can be known. Yet students are often told there is no such thing.”

She added, “Our self-centered culture denies truth because acknowledging it would mean certain feelings or certain ideas could be wrong … Abandoning truth creates confusion. Confusion leads to censorship. And censorship inevitably invites chaos on campuses, and elsewhere.”

Constitution Day marks the formation and signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787.

It recognizes both the United States Constitution and all those who have become American citizens.

See a discussion on free speech on college campuses in the video below.

Elizabeth Economou is a former CNBC staff writer and adjunct professor. Follow her on Twitter.