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Monday, November 27, 2006

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"[3], 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?

source: wikipedia.com



Anonymous DatuPanot said...

ka rolly,

i wonder how darwinism of darwin's theory of evolution is viewed or taught in our schools back home?


8:30 AM  
Blogger rolly said...

Datupanot Ah, this must be about the controversy generated by certain groups in the States about the clash between the intelligent design and Darwinism. Wala namang problema dito na ganyan. For one thing, the country is still predominantly Christian and besides, we ahve no problem separating the ideas espoused by the church and science.

IMHO, dapat lang ituro pareho and let the learner decide. Yun lang.

7:16 PM  
Blogger ipanema said...

I think that's the hottest issue in the West-Darwinism. There were cases wherein a teacher was called for interrogation after a complaint from a parent stating she taught it in class.

I think in countries where freedom of expression is policed, there's a need to exercise caution. I can't imagine how one can teach if there's no sharing of ideas. I don't know what subjects will be able to fall under this. Beats me.

Good post! :)

2:53 PM  
Blogger cbs said...

i believe there is a magna carta for teachers containing a clause about academic freedom. i have not read it, but i've had many teachers in high school and college who exercised this right. in fact, in college, i had this one prof who had way too much freedom he veered away from the curriculum and told us the story of his life.

7:18 PM  
Blogger rolly said...

ipanema Intelligent design vs Darwinism was a hot issue talked about several months ago. I thought I've blogged about it but I couldn't find it in my archives.

Thank you.

cbs I think that was using the freedom way over the edge. Maybe the teacher forgot to prepare a lesson. hahaha

2:40 AM  
Blogger Svelte Rogue said...

hi tito rols, long time no dalaw! internet connection was totally dicey for a week! but am back, and back back back.

i can't imagine how teachers can invoke it much back home considering that the average classroom teacher is so burdened with work na, makakapag research pa ba sila? that's why the serious scholars leave the country, so they can devote their time to doing the singularly intense task of researching and gaining expertise in their chosen field of study.

nako cbs, i had a UP teacher who liked to talk about her life instead of teaching us the finer points of counterpoint... being the lazy gel i was, i dropped the class like it was a hot potato. my bad my bad! anak pa naman yon ng militar. ayiiii

4:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

on the topic of freedom, i agree the word can be abused most times. i guess i'm old school, but freedom for me is not freedom to do as you please (as power tripping people do, whether they are teachers or something else), but it is making a choice and honing that choice until you have truly experienced the freedom, the liberation, that comes from standing by your principle...

4:33 AM  
Blogger rolly said...

svelte That's a reasonable take on the issue. But there's also the question on how much leeway are schools going to give should there be a teacher who is really unconventional? I've been thinking about that.

anonymous precisely.

6:12 PM  
Blogger Svelte Rogue said...

"svelte That's a reasonable take on the issue. But there's also the question on how much leeway are schools going to give should there be a teacher who is really unconventional? I've been thinking about that."

that's what your article points out, that a teacher must exercise restraint, so that he or she does not overstep bounds, the bounds being the freedom to express views and opinions of and related to the subject matter at hand or to research... and not in any way that may offend the academic community.

the only way, i think, you could offend this huge chunk of "academic community", which is by no means homogenous at all, is to take words out of context, misquote someone, or claim certain words as your own. otherwise, no matter how unconventional a teacher is, the school should not have to censure that person. as long as the subject matter is treated well. ideas need to remain as clear as possible, so they can be passed from person to person, across time, and have an illuminating effect on just about anyone... bangon, bayan! :)

tito rols, that was me, too, si anonymous. so thank you for affirming my point. :)

10:11 PM  
Blogger _anna said...

Hi Tito Rolly!

I managed to struggle in your blog through Google and I'm glad I did.

I read your post which was dated May 17, 2006 (i'm not quite sure), basta it's about the top universities in the Philippines.

I'm a high school senior and I'm hoping to get into a good school.. money really is hard.. how i wish..

" dapat lang ituro pareho and let the learner decide " - i agree.

God bless!

12:55 PM  
Blogger rolly said...

svelte I may add, "as long as the teacher presents all views or at least elicits from the students other views" siguro. As in the case of Darwinism and intelligent design.

I believe it is the teacher's role to present the lesson for what it is, maybe slant it in a certain way but still leaving the choice to the learner.

anna hello. I'm glad you dropped by and made your presence felt. Welcome! Balik ka lang ulit at magkwentuhan tayo. hehe

4:37 PM  
Blogger Svelte Rogue said...

oo naman, tito rols, the learners are always part of the equation. pity the class where the teacher monopolises everything from beginning to end. hindi class yon, masturbation with audience. given na yung openness to divergent points of view in a n authentic learning environment.

7:06 PM  

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