Friday, December 03, 2004

Academic freedom a two-sided coin

Jeff Jacoby: "Academic freedom is not only meant to protect professors; it is also supposed to ensure students' right to learn without being molested. When instructors use their classrooms to indoctrinate and propagandize, they cheat those students and betray the academic mission they are entrusted with. That should be intolerable to honest men and women of every stripe -- liberals and conservatives alike.

'If this were a survey of students reporting widespread sexual harassment,' says ACTA's president, Anne Neal, 'there would be an uproar.' That is because universities take sexual harassment seriously. Intellectual harassment, on the other hand -- like the one-party conformity it flows from -- they ignore."

There is also the issue, when the university is a publicly-funded one, of forced taxpayer support of specific ideology, and often fringe ideology at that. The tenure system , ostensibly a safegard of academic freedom, has become its enemy through lack of accountability of academics to those who pay them.

Jacoby makes the excellent point that academic freedom ought to apply to students also, in the form of true freedom of enquiry (i.e. exposure to more than one viewpoint) and lack of harrassment and intimidation.

I can't say I personally encountered anything at Idaho State as bad as the cases detailed in this video, but I did encounter a few professors who wasted classroom time with irrelevant and illogical diatribes against Christianity, and in such a manner that did not permit rebuttals. In all three cases, tenure protected professors who would likely not be there under a merit- or competence-based system.