Educational Philosophy

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

By Joanna Williams

Universities, as soon as on the vanguard of campaigns for highbrow liberty, are actually bastions of conformity. This provocative publication lines the loss of life of educational freedom in the context of fixing rules in regards to the function of the collage and the character of data and is a passionate name to fingers for the facility of educational inspiration today.

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Over subsequent decades this definition of the public good of higher education has come to be reassessed, by academics and politicians alike, far more explicitly in relation to a changing range of values (see the next chapter for a fuller discussion of this point). The danger of linking academic freedom to a particular aim of higher education – even one as potentially far-reaching as the fulfilment of the public good – is that it risks transforming academic freedom into a quid pro quo arrangement between scholars and the state.

It was to escape a state of academic unfreedom and worse, that many of those who contributed to its endowment left the lands of their birth’ (p. 45). In his speech, Robbins argued: [T]he demand for academic freedom in institutions of higher education is not the same as the demand for freedom of thought and speech in general: it goes considerably beyond that principle. It is not merely a demand that the academic, in his capacity as a citizen, shall be free to think and speak as he likes; it is a demand that, in his employment as an academic, he shall have certain freedoms not necessarily involved in ordinary contractual relations and that the institutions in which he works shall likewise enjoy certain rights of independent initiative not necessarily granted to other institutions which are part of the state system.

Most significantly, Descartes developed a methodology for the pursuit of knowledge based upon principles of skepticism and doubt. From this we can trace the first underpinnings of the scientific method. Although later Enlightenment philosophers rejected many of Descartes’ findings, they reasserted the importance of his methodological approach, which would come to characterize the enduring liberal academic project. Descartes was necessarily careful to avoid direct confrontation with the Catholic Church; he was all too aware of the imprisonment meted out to Galileo for espousing a Copernican view of the solar system.

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