Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Academic freedom - or freedom from academics?

I have just noticed this article in The Australian HES - http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,,23916884-12332,00.html

This article includes a very interesting definition of academic freedom - libs that are concerned about "academic bias" are looking for academia to be "free" of politics.

Normally, academic freedom means things like:

- academics need to be able to pursue the scholarship they consider to be important without interference from politicians or churches. We could possibly extend this to industries, businesses, unions or anyone else.

- academics need to be able to state publicly their scholarly findings without fear of physical or financial penalty (verbal penalty is to expected though) and thus probably need to be quite secure in their job (ie tenure)

It does NOT normally mean:

- academics are not able to hold or express a public political or religious opinion that may or may not be based on hard evidence (would these libs have a problem with academics declaring a belief in God?)

Politics, as well as being a democratic/media/entertainment/career/wayoflife/whatever, is also an area of scholarly study (or an issue in several areas). Academic freedom really is at risk if politicians wish to ensure that scholars never express a political opinion.

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