The New Academic Freedom And Its Effects On Higher Education

1192 words - 5 pages

The idea of “academic freedom” in American higher education is a fairly new concept. Before a recent change in educational practices, religious ideals were deeply rooted in higher education curriculum. By the late-twentieth century, however, the idea of academic freedom became more prevalent across the higher education community. As a result, the influence of religion played a lesser role in the development of curriculum across colleges and universities as professors seized their newly granted academic freedom. With the advent of the modern liberal movement in the United States, the atmosphere in colleges and universities has become increasingly oppressive of Christianity in the name of “academic freedom”. This issue was effectively characterized in William Buckley’s God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of “Academic Freedom”.
Dating back to the medieval-era in world history, religion played a key role in higher education. With the Catholic Church at the apex of the social hierarchy throughout the Middle Ages and early modern period in world history, religious influence was prevalent across the world of academia (“Academic” 16). As religious unrest and the questioning of society grew during the sixteenth century, however, religion began to play a lesser role in higher education. The most significant schism in the academic world corresponded with Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Darwin’s evolutionary theory significantly discounted the Christian idea of creationism, causing a great split in pedagogical foundations. Most institutions initially favored creationist theory or were indifferent when choosing faculty for their schools (“Academic” 17). However, as the idea of academic freedom proliferated in the United States during the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, colleges and universities became more tolerant of the modern schools of thought and increasingly biased toward the “new” ways of thinking.
During the post-WWII years, movements pushing for the equality of minority groups, especially those religious and ethnic, spread throughout the United States. Coupled with the “Red Scare”, or a fear of radical communism in the United States, these movements sparked trouble in the world of higher education (“Academic” 17). With an atmosphere of true academic freedom growing across American institutions of higher education, such issues presented a problem for educators – should academic freedom continue without restraint, or should some limits be imposed so minorities are not offended? By the 1960s and 1970s, “the notion of political correctness… challenged academic freedom from a liberal perspective. Fearing that expressing one’s opinion might offend a historically or currently oppressed group, many scholars and students frequently censor themselves when approaching defensive issues” (“Academic” 17). This idea gave birth to a form of “new” academic freedom, where anti-Christian educators used their freedom of expression to advocate...

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