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Op-Ed Suggests the Answer to Protecting Academic Freedom in Higher Education is Neutrality

Op-Ed Suggests the Answer to Protecting Academic Freedom in Higher Education is Neutrality

“When is it legitimate for government officials to intrude upon academic freedom?”

Is this possible, or does it give the left too much credit for being reasonable?

Daniel J. Smith and Adam Kissel write at the Tennessean:

When should government infringe on academic freedom in a democracy?

A tension in public education today pits the democratic will of the people against the desire of schoolteachers and professors to be left alone to make their own educational choices. When is it legitimate for government officials to intrude upon academic freedom?

In the public schools, there is already a lot of legitimate engagement. Legislatures do set curriculum standards, graduation requirements and funding formulas. Universities, however, were founded to be independent so that the search for truth is not limited by politics. Should they be totally independent even though the public is paying millions for them?

In many states, the ideological composition of faculty at public universities is increasingly out of balance with the ideological composition of their taxpaying citizens. This is certainly the case where the faculty and administration have grown overwhelmingly skewed towards the left. That means the search for truth may be limited by politics after all.

Individual vs. institutional academic freedom

So how can elected officials intervene in higher education without compromising academic freedom? Individual academic freedom is an inviolable feature of institutions of higher education because their core purpose includes exposing students to a wide range of competing ideas. This is necessary to develop their critical-thinking skills so that they become citizens who can make up their own minds about disinformation and the truth. When the First Amendment and academic freedom protections for scholars at public universities conflict with the democratic principle of majority rule, free speech and academic freedom win.

Constraints on what a scholar can express are clearly off limits. Also off limits should be any restriction on the ability of scholars to raise external support for their academic endeavors. Provided that the university is satisfied that the external funding leaves the academic freedom of participating faculty uncompromised, external funding can enable minority viewpoints to be heard in environments with strong faculty bias against them.

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Comments

“A tension in public education today pits the democratic will of the people against the desire of schoolteachers and professors to be left alone to make their own educational choices. ”

No, that’s not the conflict. The “educational choices” they are making promote bigotry, gender dysphoria and the destruction of the republic.

They aren’t being left alone because they are intentionally indoctrinating children and young adults into insane ideologies INSTEAD of educating them.

healthguyfsu | March 31, 2022 at 1:33 pm

There needs to be a political code to allow objectively fair (in other words, set by criteria rather than opinion) discourse in all disciplines about issues without penalty. Also, grading needs to remain politically neutral. We’ve allowed far too much subjectivity in these soft “studies” majors to creep in and overtake common sense.

What horseshit.

A tension in public education today pits the democratic will of the people against the desire of schoolteachers and professors to be left alone to make their own educational choices. When is it legitimate for government officials to intrude upon academic freedom?

Universities, however, were founded to be independent so that the search for truth is not limited by politics. Should they be totally independent even though the public is paying millions for them?

We already know the answer to this. The answer is NO. The government has established this over and over, in over five decades of repression and persecution of institutions such as Hillsdale College, who have steadfastly defended their right to operate without government intrusion and meddling in their affairs. They have been told outright that they can only claim their constitutional right to do so if they take not one penny of government funds.

And that doesn’t mean just the school — it means every single, solitary student on campus.

Did you accept a student with a Pell Grant? Government funds. A veteran on the GI Bill? Government funds. Getting Medicaid for a condition? Government funds. Receiving a research grant? Government funds. Have a commonplace, federally-guaranteed student loan? Hell, no — government funds!

But of course, now that the bleats for “academic freedom” are coming from the hallowed left instead of the deplorable right, we must dissemble and pretend that there is no current standard, so that we can make up a “new” one that is 180° reversed.

Duplicitous horseshit, plain and simple.

Adam Kissel | April 1, 2022 at 9:14 am

Thanks for these eloquent comments.