In my last column I talked about academic freedom and how neoliberalism is impacting on the ability of academics to speak out. I’d like to continue this discussion this week because there are more subtle influences at play that are severely curtailing the right to academic freedom. In reality, academics today have less freedom to express their ideas than was possible nearly a century ago.
Academic freedom is the foundation of democracy as it provides the right for academics to speak the truth in pursuit of knowledge and understanding in their discipline area.
Academic freedom is a different right than the right to free speech held by all citizens.
Free speech is the right to speak the truth about the world in general and it may be limited by one’s job role. For example a marketing manager in a company cannot publicly criticise the company’s marketing strategy, whereas an academic may publicly express concern over the quality of teaching in the course in which s/he teaches. Academic freedom rights are actually stronger than free speech rights. Despite this, academic freedom rights have been gradually eroded.
We need to fight for academic freedom: if we let it slip we are putting our nation’s future at risk. Without the freedom to critique, we are simply drones unthinkingly following an agenda that is imposed upon us.
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