Thursday, February 03, 2005

Academic Freedom vs. Academic Accountability

It seems that there is a lot of confusion these days among university professors about the difference between the concepts of "academic freedom" and "academic accountability". Many of them appear to believe that having "academic freedom" means never having to say they're sorry--or at least, never being accountable for what they say; and forever protected from criticism of their their thoughts and opinions and behavior--no matter how UNacademic or asinine.

When the criticism originates in a scholarly journal in response to a scholarly publication, it is more palatable. But usually, scholarly journals are the repository of scholarly ideas--a place where those ideas can be presented with evidence or data to support them; discussed; disagreed with, or refuted. This is a form of academic accountability. Those professors--even with tenure--who never publish their ideas for the academic community to analyze or dissect, soon lose credibiity within their fields (or should, at any rate). Those with crackpot ideas; no evidence or data to demonstrate their ideas; are subject to the indignity of not being published at all--their papers and the elucidated ideas insufficiently robust to even make it onto the academic cutting block. These latter will never (well, hardly ever) achieve tenure--except in those fields where scholarly ability is not valued.

One such area appears to be "ethnic studies". I wonder what "ethnic study" led Professor Churchill to opine his delusional personal beliefs and disguised it under "academic freedom"? He is currently finding out about the impact of "peer review" as the general public become aware of some of the more outrageous things he says. And, isn't it interesting that --although his expressed feelings managed to hurt thousands of people who had relatives and loved ones in the 9/11 attacks; there is no outrage from the same multicultural, politically correct university community who are so often tenderly concerned about the hostile impact of "conservative" views-- speech is only free, apparently, for those who have views the university crowd agrees with (see here, for example)

Of course Churchill has a right to free speech. But just because Churchill works for a university does not make him some holy, sacred being whose ideas and opinions must forever be sacrosanct and unquestioned. Who does he think he is? Mohammed? Are his writings like the Koran that they must not be ridiculed and laughed at? That they can't be exposed for the academic shams they are? What will he do? Issue a fatwa against those who think he is a crackpot and that he should be fired?

Frankly, I personally agree that Churchill is a complete idiot and a malignant human being. He is certainly entitled to his opinions on September 11, and he can identify with and dress up as Che Guevara and other Leftist thugs all he wants for all I care (he's probably so narcissistic he thinks the picture linked to isn't completely hilarious). But if I lived in Colorado I would deeply resent that MY tax money was being used to promulgate his personal agenda; and not to further the cause of science and scholarship in any way that I could see.

It is probably too much to hope that his academic colleagues would see him for the joke that he is and laugh him out of the field. But I have no problem with him having to be accountable for his views to the people who pay him. And tenure or not, in my humble opinion, those people should fire his ass.

UPDATE: Sweet.

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