Download Academic Freedom in an Age of Conformity: Confronting the by Joanna Williams PDF

By Joanna Williams

Universities, as soon as on the leading edge of campaigns for highbrow liberty, at the moment are bastions of conformity. This provocative publication strains the loss of life of educational freedom in the context of fixing rules in regards to the goal of the collage and the character of information and is a passionate name to palms for the facility of educational inspiration today.

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In January 1969, protests at LSE culminated in students smashing the gates. As in America, academics once confident in their authority suddenly found themselves accountable to the student body. Students demanded places on academic committees and changes to certain courses. Again, this resulted in an undermining of once securely held academic principles. In a 2003 interview, one of the original cohort of protesters suggested with a note of triumph that their arguments were directed ‘against the world our elders had bequeathed us – Vietnam, the prevalent class system in higher education, plus a smug and unmerited feeling of academic superiority (“objectivity”) that permeated the LSE at that time.

He considered truth to be dependent upon individual freedom to reason; knowledge and understanding could advance only if people were free to allow their own inner reason to develop. As Kant argued, ‘Truth gains more even by the errors of one who, with due study and preparation, thinks for himself, than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think’ (2009, p. 3). Kant’s challenge to the church and state lay in his belief that the freedom for people to reach the wrong conclusions and make mistakes was Free to Be Critical 33 ultimately better for the pursuit of knowledge than denying people opportunities to think for themselves through presenting them with a predetermined truth.

Scholars were becoming increasingly 36 Academic Freedom in an Age of Conformity confident in espousing a notion of secular truth and had a strong concept of their own role in relation to its pursuit through knowledge. At no other point can the influence of Enlightenment values be seen so clearly within the academy. This sense of mission made the need for academic freedom both starkly apparent and practically meaningful. Scholars recognized that truth, although ultimately contestable, could not be pursued unless they had unrestricted liberty to follow the intellectual logic of their reasoning wherever it may take them.

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