Highway or Can Opener?

Peter Wood

Be sure to check out the text of Peter's speech, "Academic Freedom and Discontent," for the Alexander Hamilton Institute, now posted on the NAS website. In it he contrasts the progressive and traditionalist versions of academic freedom:

To understand the enduring popularity of this one core academic doctrine amidst the ruins of so many other core doctrines we have to recognize that “academic freedom” means one thing to academic traditionalists and something radically different to academic progressives. Traditionalists view academic freedom as something like a limited access highway. It permits great freedom of movement, but it has its own rules and it doesn’t go everywhere. Academic freedom is not a license for driving west in the eastbound lane, for parking your car in the median, or careering recklessly across the road. Progressives, on the other hand, view academic freedom as something like a can opener. It is good for opening things up and that’s about it. [...] Neither of these views is, on its face, laughably wrong or without merit. Taking possession of a civilizational inheritance and liberating oneself from the dead hand of the past are both worthy if somewhat contradictory goals. But when it comes to academic freedom, I believe the traditionalists have the stronger case.
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