Saturday, February 19, 2005

What Freedoms really mean

Something about this Ward Churchill mess that's been an annoying splinter in my hide is the way people keep acting as if it's all about "freedom of speech" and the less-understood construct "academic freedom".

If academic freedom doesn't imply the right to be study the topics of your choice, receiving true information from qualified people, I don't know what else it should mean. However, many people seem to believe it implies a moral authority for faculty to express ungrounded, unquestioned, and/or undebated opinions especially on topics outside their stated purview as educators.
"Are we all not students of existence?" they ask. Frankly, no. And in modern American higher education, diversity quotas aside, I would argue that the slice of existence being exposed is an increasingly narrow sliver.

In the following article from Capitalism Magazine, Thomas Sowell expresses clearly what these "freedoms" really represent, and as I've often argued, they do NOT mean freedom from experiencing the results of your words and actions. Nothing in this world can guarantee that. Nor should it, no matter how we might wish the wheel of karma would bust flat.

Too many people -- some of them judges -- seem to think that freedom of speech means freedom from consequences for what you have said. If you believe that, try insulting your boss when you go to work tomorrow. Better yet, try insulting your spouse before going to bed tonight.

My favorite factoid was about the students who yell "OT" when their professors get off-topic. I'd love to send them a thank-you note and promote the idea across collegiana. There are excellent, talented professors who turn tangents into lessons and digressions into deeper explorations of the subject. However, given faculty's current tendency to screed on the students' time and the students' dime, I think we're better erring on behalf of course relevancy in the near-term.

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