Interesting column from the Chronicle of Higher Ed about the forthcoming “Freedom in the Classroom” declaration, a pushback to the criticisms of a liberal-dominated academia:
But, for reasons well known to readers of Inside Higher Ed, these things no longer go without saying. Conservative ideologues (whose names escape me at the moment) have tried, in recent years, to redefine “academic freedom” as a shield that protects conservative students from the opinions and convictions of their professors; they have introduced bills in state legislatures that would mandate “intellectual diversity” in college courses and curricula — presumably to give conservative interpretations of The Rise of Silas Lapham and White Noise a fair hearing, or perhaps to require the assignment of texts more congenial to the conservative world view. And these initiatives have spawned a minor cottage industry of Student Protection Plans, as state legislators craft bills that would make it illegal for professors to challenge students’ cherished beliefs, or require professors to “respect” students’ determination to defend their opinions, however misinformed these might be.
In response, the American Association of University Professors’ Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure has drafted a 5500-word statement on “Freedom in the Classroom,” explaining just what it means that — as the AAUP 1940 Statement of Principles says — “Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject.” The document will be published in the forthcoming issue of Academe, and it is — in the humble opinion of this longtime AAUP member (who had no hand in its composition) — as clear and as compelling a defense of academic freedom in the classroom as one could wish.
The column really comes alive in the comments section which features a robust debate.
Here’s what Cary Nelson, president of the AAUP, said about the declaration in an email to professors:
The report differentiates instruction from indoctrination. It addresses demands for “balance” in the classroom and offers a very specific and limited disciplinary rationale for the relevance of balance. It argues forcefully that college instructors have the right — and, some would argue, the responsibility — to challenge their students’ most cherished beliefs.
My only question — who’s most-cherished beliefs will replace those that are challenged?