Re: Academic Freedom

Robert, I agree that when we discuss academic freedom, we should generally specify who the agent is. Calhoun’s use of passive voice obscures that. He focuses on what is said rather than who says it. 

But I also agree with Calhoun in his characterization of academic freedom: It does not mean anything goes in an academic context. His discussion of the live sex demonstration at Northwestern is a good example. Just because the professor thought it was “educational” does not mean that it was appropriate for the classroom. The common perception of academic freedom is as carte blanche immunity from criticism and correction. Calhoun makes an important point: academic freedom exists for a purpose, and the purpose is “free inquiry in pursuit of truth” — and not mere provocation for its own sake.

Today “The Vagina Monologues” is an old artifact of the culture wars, and students perform it in order to feel as if they’re pushing boundaries. Any attempt to stop or hinder it just makes its producers think they’ve achieved something. So I don’t favor attempts to keep this vulgar play off campus. That doesn’t mean that producing it is a meaningful exercise of academic freedom. It’s just a meaningful exercise of bad taste — especially at a Catholic university.  

Academic freedom also comes in when those on campus who have objections to its performance can’t voice their dissent. The Gonzaga events for the week of the play, unlike most events on campus, were closed to the public, and those who planned them, Calhoun wrote, “studiously avoided including dissenting voices.”

NR Staff — Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

Most Popular

U.S.

The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More