Monday, November 24, 2008

On Academic Freedom

A New York Times opinion writer, Stanley Fish, often writes about questions of interest to university professors. In this article, he writes about the notion of "academic freedom" and what it means and how it is quite different from individual First Amendment rights. He also refers to a new book on this topic. Much of his discussion makes sense to me. In particular, the notion that "... academic freedom, rather than being a philosophical or moral imperative, is a piece of policy that makes practical sense in the context of the specific task academics are charged to perform." He argues that academics ought to be protected from the dictates of public opinion but ought to be subject to professional standards and norms. I agree. And this is a distinction important for us academics to understand and implement in our conduct.