academic freedom anyone?
Not many educators know that in education, there is an animal called academic freedom. Academic freedom is the right of a teacher/professor and students to pursue research and publish their findings without restraint. Conversely, it also holds that teachers are entitled to full freedom in discussing their subject. This is a principle exercised first in Germany and later on, in France and the United States. The rationale behind this principle is to give the learner a free hand in any field of study that is not controlled by any individual thus hampering the initiative of the learner to pursue a field of study and as a consequence, deprive mankind of a valuable lesson. The effects of restraining/control an individual to learn a new field of study is dramatically shown in the case of one Russian biologist named Trofim Lysenko.
Trofim Lysenko is a Soviet biologist who rejected the advances of science and proposed his unscientivic approach to biology. Since his principles suited dialectical materialism, the propaganda value of his ideas appealed to the Soviet leadership and made him director of the Soviet Academy of Agricultural Sciences. In power, he ordered the expulsion, imprisonment, or death of hundreds of Soviet scientists to implement his ideas on collectivised farms in the Soviet Union and China. This resulted in famines which believed to have killed 30 million people in China alone.
The fate of biology in the Soviet Union shows why society has an interest in protecting academic freedom. A Soviet biologist named Trofim Lysenko rejected Western scientific advances and proposed a new, unscientific approach to biology (called Lysenkoism) that was based on the principles of dialectical materialism. Because of their propaganda value, Lysenko's ideas proved appealing to the Soviet leadership, and he became the director of the Soviet Academy of Agricultural Sciences; subsequently, Lysenko directed a purge of scientists who professed "harmful ideas," resulting in the expulsion, imprisonment, or death of hundreds of Soviet scientists. Lysenko's unscientific ideas were implemented on collectivised farms in the Soviet Union and China. Famines that resulted partly from Lysenko's influence are believed to have killed 30 million people in China alone.
Academic freedom, however, is not a license to teach anything at will. Like any rule or right, it carries with it certain limitations.
In the United States, for example, according to the widely recognized "1940 Statement on Academic Freedom and Tenure", teachers should be careful to avoid controversial matter that is unrelated to the subject. When they speak or write in public, they are free to express their opinions without fear from institutional censorship or discipline, but they should show restraint and clearly indicate that they are not speaking for their institution. Academic tenure protects academic freedom by ensuring that teachers can be fired only for adequate cause, such as gross professional incompetence or behavior that evokes condemnation from the academic community itself.We should remember that as teachers, we carry a big amount of responsibility on our shoulders.
The reason why not many teachers know about this principle is probably because there has been no need for it. We seem to inherently know about our freedom and are aware of the advances of technology and the fruits we reap from it. Thanks to modern means of information, we see the tremendous successes as well as failures of recent studies conducted by research institutes. However, I wonder when academic freedom can be invoked and if it has been invoked before in the country. Is it only applicable to college education or does its hands go down to elementary and high school?