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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/11563/is-academic-freedom-a-special-kind-of-freedom/

Is “Academic Freedom” a Special Kind of Freedom?

January 29, 2010 by

“Academic freedom” seems to be the freedom to teach the subject matter in whatever way the academic wishes the subject taught, despite any wishes to the contrary that his employer may harbor. FULL ARTICLE by Walter Block


Major William Howcott (USAF RET.) January 29, 2010 at 9:38 am

The fundamental problem here has to do with property. What should be taught in school? Whatever the owners of the school decide. And the student has the freedom to select the school best suited to him from among the varied schools … and if no such school exist, like minded students may start their own.

The one size fits all government school system that we now “enjoy” cannot be all things to all people. It should be abolished in favor of schools that are freely established and attended.

Stephen MacLean January 29, 2010 at 11:14 am

More inimitable Block, this time on academic freedom.

Though from the context he appears to write tongue-in-cheek, who could argue against the proposition that academics ‘require free inquiry, untrammeled rights of expression, and the right to pursue their thoughts wherever their intellects shall lead them’?

In another context, this is simply a version of speaking truth to power, which is mainly controversial from the perspective of the powerful (and, one should add, a freedom that thrives when it is not limited to academics alone).

Academic freedom’s interference with free association is no doubt more fertile ground for criticism, where it seems to shield those with no pretensions of questioning entrenched authority and, more especially, with no pretensions of academic ability or rigour to warrant their heroic status.

Yet I would venture that we do enjoy a form of vocational freedom, where individuals are free to become scholars, plumbers, farmers, &c—free from State diktat that plans the numbers of practitioners in each profession, and then assigns such roles to its acquiescent citizens.

Socialist doctrine, with its suppression of individual choice, is the best argument for classical liberal freedom—for academics and all of us.

Yair January 30, 2010 at 5:53 am

I have two remarks on this subject:

(a) At least in Israel, the term “academic freedom” is used to refer to a certain freedom or leeway that faculty members of the different academic institutes enjoy (mainly universities, but not exclusively). It is strictly not a freedom that teachers in general enjoy.

I think it is very important to note that although professors, for example, do teach, and enjoy their “academic freedom” when teaching, teaching is not their job. It is only a small fraction of their work, which consists mainly of research in their field of study.

I think it is reasonable to say that in order for their research to be the most productive it can be it needs to ‘require free inquiry, untrammeled rights of expression, and the right to pursue their thoughts wherever their intellects shall lead them’. You can of course contrast them with the goal oriented research that researchers that work for companies do, but that only highlights the difference between academic and non-academic research.

(b) The practical mechanism that gives academics their “academic freedom” or “vocational freedom” is tenure. Tenure is a horrible solution with a ton of problems, but it is by no way limited to the academy. In Israel, all government employees (as far as I know) have tenure clauses in their collective contracts, and thus enjoy “vocational freedom”. Furthermore, most heavily unionized workers have tenure clauses too (bank workers for example).

The problem is not “academic freedom”, but rather the entire disgusting thing called ‘tenure’.

Bruce Koerber January 30, 2010 at 10:20 am

‘Academic Freedom’ Is Obsolescent And A Misnomer.

‘Academic freedom’ in its current form exists because it is tolerated!

The State has so interfered with the workings of the market that the market barely is able to function. It is like language without a vocabulary of more than 100 words! There is only so much that can be communicated or understood using such a language.

The advantage to the State is that because there is so little ability to communicate and understand under its opressive design it makes it very difficult for the discovery of the wonderous alternative and it makes it difficult for a rebellion to form.

But it is against the human reality to exist like that (a state of severly suppressed entrepreneurial spirit) so people will begin ‘busting at the seams’ and an underground civilization will form.

At some point the lies and distortions that spew out as a result of so-called ‘academic freedom’ will no longer be tolerated. That will be one of the signs that there is an ideological shift!

Bruce Koerber January 30, 2010 at 10:30 am

Correction: wondrous not wonderous.

Brandon Killen January 31, 2010 at 12:46 pm

It seems to me, that academics and professors will not want to teach at any university if the material they are allowed to teach is completely and utterly controlled by the university.

If I understood you correctly, you would not be opposed to a guarantee of academic freedom if it was written into a professor’s contract with a university. Which, as I understand it, is how the system currently works.

Guard February 1, 2010 at 7:42 am

Yes Bruce, academics is so monopolized and controlled by the state that it is not even relevant at this point to discuss freedom of contracts. The state dictates what the schools must teach and the corporations enforce the academic requirements. I am not free to choose: if I don’t cooperate with the system I will starve. I am free to be an artist, the proverbial starving artist. Any profession is a state and corporate enforced monopoly that requires a state approved education. It is political power, not actual skill, that matters. The academic freedom issue is a chimera: it is simply a struggle between two equally statist political forces.

newson October 29, 2010 at 10:56 pm

“campus watch” makes sure academic freedom doesn’t get out of hand.

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