Phi Beta Cons

Academic Freedom for Non-Academics?

(UPDATE ADDED)  Something to cogitate on, from Alan Contreras.

Why, he asks, is the idea of academic freedom as a protected right limited to university professors? Why doesn’t it apply to those engaged in research in think tanks, foundations, publishing houses, and businesses?
Let me cite a few of Contreras’s novel insights, all of which relate to the notion that campuses’ uniquely protected status as the nation’s main conductors of information and principles to young adults has long been failing:

Universities have traditionally been assigned by society the role of pursuing truth and transferring knowledge in a semi-protected setting . . . doesn’t it seem strange that a special kind of institution in society must be set aside for this purpose? . . .
I do not think that the traditional collegiate cloister as our sole reservation for academic freedom works very well any more. . . . [Isn’t a] Web site or other nontraditional venue . . . as much a classroom as an enclosed space in which one human is bleating in person at a roomful of (mostly) younger humans? . . .
Academic freedom adheres to the purpose and function of academic inquiry, not to technicalities of institutional affiliation. Anyone who engages in inquiry and publication according to the norms of academe is entitled to the scholar’s woolen cloak . . .
The fact that . . . a top-flight [experts can now contract and engage with] students privately . . . indicates] an educational trend that militates toward recognition that academic freedom, in its purposes, results and legal classification, needs to be decoupled from the nature of an individual scholar’s employment.

I throw the question open: What would be the implications of extending the scholar’s shield to all those who pursue truth and attempt publicly to convince others of their views?
UPDATE: Michael Filozov, adjunct professor at Monroe County Community College, writes:

Note, however, the catchphrase in Contreras’s article: “within the norms of academe.” That says it all, does it not? I submit to you that in reality, there is no true academic freedom, especially in colleges and universities. A radical thought? Not according to my experience. The “norms of academe” mean that “Bush is Hitler,” the “military shall be banned from campus,” and “we oppose the war,” and “deconstructing porn” are all protected by “academic freedom.” Questioning homosexuality, abortion, global warming or the Democratic Party are NOT part of academic freedom. I have always been inspired by the example of Socrates, and, in my professional judgment, the academy today is the equivalent of the sophists who had Socrates executed for violating what essentially amounted to the norms of 5th century B.C. (oh, sorry! that’s B.C.E. — to get the Christianity out of it!) Athenian political correctness. I’d bet a fair amount of money that there’s probably more true academic freedom within the R&D departments of some “evil” corporations — and the Pentagon, FWIW — than there is in most universities.


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