One of the big topics on academic blogs lately is ''Academic Freedom''; I've sort of been avoiding discussing it because it gets to be rather boring and I'm not really sure that you could call this an ''academic blog'' anymore. Maybe back in the salad days when I was bitching every other post about TAing for absent-minded professors and sullen students; but alas, I decided that was probably not very interesting to read and have switched to topics that are universally agreed-upon as being totally fascinating, like fluctuations in the Canadian currency...
Ahem! Anyway, I was wondering if anybody would like to discuss ''academic freedom''- something that I find a bit like Santa Claus- I support it in theory, but doubt that it really exists. I think it might have been real for academics in the 70s, but honestly I think my generation expects to be treated like temps anyway. Tenure is on the way out, and in its place we seem to be getting these ''contract'' positions that make it much easier to get rid of the ''troublemakers''. So, I expect the worst. When I'm at the university, I'm roughly as confrontational and courageous as Franz Kafka.
Does academic freedom even matter for you math and science types? Do you ever offend anybody? In my professional life, I stick to a policy of keeping my damn opinions to myself, especially about politics and religion, and I've seen a lot of academics who do the same. And yet, all I ever hear about from the ''experts'' on the Internet is the radical left-wing professors who scream ''Say you love Chairman Mao!!'' at the students until they start crying.
Maybe I'm a wimp, but I just figure that, were I to start talking about politics in the classroom, and were one of my students to complain, I'd probably be fired quicker than you could say ''I love Chairman Mao''. Given the mix of gutless admins, anti-academic crusaders on the left and the right, and students who increasingly see us as ''the help'', I don't have the slightest bit of faith in ''academic freedom''. Therefore, I blog as ''Rufus'' and when I'm in the University, I make sure not to say anything that could offend any crybabies. My Grandfather used to call this ''keeping your nose clean''. But, as I've said, I'm one of those paranoids who, whenever I deal with any authority figure whatsoever expects to get tased.
So, should we fight for academic freedom? And what would it look like exactly?