Academic Freedom for Students: NAS Affirms Lernfreiheit

  • Press_Release
  • January 29, 2009

National Association of Scholars

1 Airport Place, Suite 7 • Princeton, NJ 08540-1532

phone: 609-683-7878 • fax: 609-683-0316

web: • email: [email protected]

Press Release

January 29, 2009 

Contact: Peter Wood, President

(609) 683-7878

PRINCETON, NJ—The National Association of Scholars issued a statement outlining its position on academic freedom. Peter Wood, the new NAS president and author of the statement, upheld the 1915 AAUP statement Declaration of Principles, which, he writes, has been laid aside by the AAUP.

Wood notes the 1915 acknowledgment that “the term academic freedom has traditionally had two applications—to the freedom of the teacher and to that of the student.” The original German term provided two words to describe the two freedoms: Lehrfreiheit and Lernfreiheit

The statement follows a debate between Wood and AAUP president Cary Nelson at the National Association of Scholars conference earlier this month, over “the meaning of academic freedom.” Nelson has written that academic freedom is “the principle that guarantees faculty members the right to speak and write as they please without interference from the university, the state, or the public.” In the NAS statement, Wood contrasts the AAUP “as they please” version with the NAS definition: “the right to pursue the truth according to disciplined forms of inquiry.”

Asked whether this represents a change in the National Association of Scholars’ view, Wood replied, “The NAS from its beginning has been focused on the need to preserve intellectual freedom. We’ve argued for over twenty years that this requires maintaining support for free institutions. Ironically, as the student radicals of the 1960s and 70s gained authority on college campuses, they frequently used that power to deny later generations of students the freedom to express their ideas.”

In regard to the American Association of University Professors, whose history Wood examined in the statement, he said, “The AAUP has generally been unhelpful in defending students’ intellectual freedom, but if President Nelson is signaling that the AAUP is willing to join us in this important cause, we welcome its assistance. The NAS and other organizations like ACTA and FIRE are eager for new allies. Ultimately this is a question of the quality of American higher education.”

The statement may be found here, in the article titled, “Civilization and the Spirit of Scholarship: On the Continuing Need for the National Association of Scholars, Part I: Genuine Academic Freedom.”

The National Association of Scholars is America’s foremost higher education reform group.  Located in Princeton, NJ, it has forty-six state affiliates and more than four thousand professors, graduate students, administrators, and trustees as members.

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