Cancel Wars:

How universities can foster free speech, promote inclusion, and renew democracy



Political encroachment and greater limits to free speech have turned schools and universities across the nation into battlegrounds for the hearts and minds of today’s youth. Democratic habits, including a commitment to an open exchange of ideas, are shaped in learning institutions, but these spaces have become ensnared in escalating culture wars and increasingly reflect polarized social and political visions.

What role does education play in combatting democratic erosion? What responsibility do learning institutions bear in bolstering free speech and responding to extreme and exclusionary speech? How can parents, teachers, and the youth themselves, sift through information and disinformation in order to engage in open dialogue with others?

In this presentation, Dr. Sigal R. Ben-Porath offers actionable strategies for bridging political divides and reversing the process of democratic decline.

Date: Thursday, March 9, 2023
Time: 6:30 pm - Welcome reception and registration | 7:00 pm - Lecture 
Venue:  Forum, Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning - University of Calgary campus*

*Event will also be available online via Zoom

Sigil R Ben-Porath

Dr. Sigal R. Ben-Porath

Dr. Ben-Porath is a professor in the Literacy, Culture, and International Education Division of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, with a secondary appointment in the Department of Political Science. She received her doctorate in political philosophy from Tel Aviv University in 2000. Since 2004 she has been teaching at Penn GSE, where she is an associate member of the political science department and the philosophy department, as well as the Institute of Law and Philosophy. She was a founding member of the board of the Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy. She was a fellow at the Center for Human Values at Princeton, the Institute for Advanced Studies, the Safra Center for Ethics at Tel Aviv University, and the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard. 

Research Interests and Current Projects 

Dr. Ben-Porath is interested in democratic theory and practice, and studies the ways institutions like schools and colleges can sustain and advance democracy. Her areas of expertise include philosophy of education and political philosophy. Her books include Cancel Wars (2023), Making Up Our Mind: What School Choice is Really About (2019), Free Speech on Campus (2017) and Varieties of Sovereignty and Citizenship (2012), as well as Tough Choices: Structured Paternalism and the Landscape of Choice (2010) and Citizenship under Fire: Democratic Education in Times of Conflict (2006). 


Dianne Gereluk

Dr. Dianne Gereluk (Moderator)

A former teacher with the Edmonton Public School Board, Dr. Dianne Gereluk is dean and professor at the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary.  From 2013-2018, she served as Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs.  Her research examines educational policy and practice related to politically contested and controversial issues in education. Examining the role educators play in fostering robust political deliberation in an increasingly polarized civil society is a primary interest. In her current role as Dean, Dr. Gereluk has renewed the Werklund School’s commitment to child well-being. Ensuring K-12 students thrive in their schools, in their homes and in their communities is at the core of her teaching and learning philosophy.