The Other Side of Academic Freedom Is Academic Responsibility

By Dobson, Keith S. | Canadian Psychology, November 1997 | Go to article overview

The Other Side of Academic Freedom Is Academic Responsibility


Dobson, Keith S., Canadian Psychology


Abstract

This article argues that academic freedom is not absolute, but is delimited by legal, bargained and social factors. Further, it is argued that academic freedom implies certain obligations on university faculty, and in doing so recognizes the legitimate role of political correctness in the modern university, Given these limitations, the article considers some of the appropriate limits to political correctness, and argues that what are needed are the proper place and procedure to debate the balance between academic privilege and responsibility.

The current series of articles was based upon a symposium at a recent Canadian Psychological Association on political correctness in academia. Political correctness has become a charged focus of discussion in modern universities, and is certainly worthy of scrutiny. The term itself has become politicized, in that the juxtaposition of two unrelated terms: "political" and "correct", has lead to of what can (and should) be deemed as "in accordance with a good standard of taste" (Concise Oxford English Dictionary) or correct, as modified by a political agenda (see also Kramer, 1994; Neufeldt, 1996; Stark, this issue). In this article, I will take the term to refer to "the imposition of politics (i.e., the taking of sides on issues) onto what is deemed correct or proper behaviour". In this regard, political correctness does not apply only in the context of academia, although it is to this context that this article will focus its attention.

Examining the issue of political correctness in a university context inevitably leads to a review of what is purported to be affected by such correctness; in this case, academic freedom. It has been reasonably argued that academic freedom is one of the major achievements of the modern university, and that due to academic freedom faculty members are able to investigate various ecclesiastical, political or moral issues that might otherwise go unstudied for the fear of retribution that might accrue to the investigators. It has been further argued that academic freedom has been the major vehicle for advancing knowledge, particularly in politically or morally sensitive areas. Similarly, it has been argued that efforts to constrain the work of university faculty is dangerous, because any such efforts potentially undermine academic freedom. In this regard, such developments as the promotion of nonsexist language or the need to create learning atmospheres free from harassment -- generally referred to as the development of "political correctness" -- has been suggested as a potential threat to academic freedom.

In this article I will argue that although academic freedom is an important attribute of the research and investigatory aspects of the functioning of contemporary academics, such freedom is not absolute, and that there are a number of legislated and bargained limits to this freedom(f.1). If sustained, the implication of such limits is that there is a legitimate role for political correctness in many aspects of the academy's functioning.

The nature of academic freedom

The exact nature of academic freedom is basic to any inquiry of political correctness and its justification. An early and often-cited definition is that academic freedom is the:

freedom of the teacher or research worker in higher institutions of learning to investigate and discuss the problems of his science and to express his conclusions, whether through publication or in the instruction of students, without interference from political or ecclesiastical authorities, or from the administrative officials of the institution in which he is employed, unless his methods are found by qualified bodies of is profession to be clearly incompetent or contrary to professional ethics. (Lovejoy, 1930).

In a 1954 address to the American Civil Liberties Association, Albert Einstein stated that "By academic freedom I understand the right to search for the truth and to publish and teach what one holds to be true. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Other Side of Academic Freedom Is Academic Responsibility
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.