Academic Freedom? We're All Conservatives

Glenn Ricketts

At least that's what Stanley Fish claims in a recent New York Times piece that echos the debate that's been going on here for the past several days. NAS, as we've often stated, and as Steve Balch and Ashley Thorne re-affirm, stands squarely behind the AAUP's original 1915 statement on academic freedom. We think that the AAUP got it exactly right then, and that the definition works just fine now as well. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. That's why we and others were dismayed by the recent revisions to Penn State's policy authorized by the faculty Senate, and now awaiting approval by PSU's president. Particularly unfortunate, as Thorne and Balch argue, was the removal of a provision stipulating that academic freedom did not grant professors license to indoctrinate their students or to use their classrooms as bully pulpit for flogging their favorite political or social issues. Stanley Fish seems to be seeking the middle ground in all of this: now, now, everybody just calm down. You're both on target left and right. What's more, you've all become conservatives. I'm not sure how Fish reaches this conclusion, and I certainly can't see campus sins of censorship committed in equivalent proportion between left and right as he seems to suggest they are. Read it, though and see what you think, especially the comments thread. Whatever you want to call Fish's respondents, "conservatives" really doesn't work at all.

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