Friday, September 08, 2006

Ohio State and Academic Freedom

Ideally, academic freedom includes the right to objectively consider varying points of view in a dispassionate manner. I really don't believe that it includes the right to be shielded from other points of view. Therefore, I also think that Scott Savage, a librarian at Ohio State, shouldn't have 'gotten in trouble' for suggesting a book for a freshman reading list that condemns homosexuality.

Savage apparently took offense to the fact that the suggested reading list for incoming freshmen includes books that are 'ideologically or politically or religiously polarizing', suggesting that he has his own problems with the concept of intellectual freedom. The idea of a critical debate does include 'poles' after all. In response to those professors who suggested that he look into these concepts, he suggested the book The Marketing of Evil: How Radicals, Elitists, and Pseudo-Experts Sell Us Corruption Disguised as Freedom, by David Kupelian be added to the reading list. Sadly, two gay professors responded by outing themselves as not particuarly conversant in the idea of intellectual freedom either, saying that even suggesting such a thing is a form of harassment. Oh my!

Final verdict: The idea of a list of books that all incoming freshmen are recommended to read with little to no explanation seems pretty idiotic in itself. That could be the real problem here. Savage sounds like a cold douche, but to suggest that recommending a book, or subscribing to an idea that offends you, is a form of harassment definitely violates the idea of academic freedom. At least, in my mind. People have asked "What if he suggested The Protocols of the Elders of Zion?" Good point, but why shouldn't universities be able to critically scrutinize the Protocols of the Elders of Zion? Isn't this the best way to expose them as horse shit? And if this book, which sounds to me like the Protocols of the Elders of Fire Island, is also crapola, wouldn't it be best to subject it to rigorous intellectual scrutiny before ultimately deciding to use it as a door-stop?

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