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Academic freedom is a term that refers primarily to certain rights claimed by professors at universities and colleges. The term also refers to various rights claimed by students at those institutions and by the institutions themselves. During the 1960's, the term academic freedom came into use to describe rights claimed by elementary-school and high-school teachers as well.

For professors, academic freedom means the right to teach, to conduct research, and to write without fear of dismissal. For their students, it means the right to challenge the professors' views without being penalized. For the institutions, it means the right to determine what is taught and what research is conducted on the campus. For teachers, such freedom means a larger share in selecting the contents of courses, and greater freedom to engage in political and social activities.

Academic freedom grew out of freedom of thought and expression, a basic right of any free society. Without such freedom, scholars cannot perform their vital role of seeking and spreading new knowledge. Scholars insist on having the freedom to present the truth as they find it, even if it conflicts with popular belief. They say that creative research is impossible if its findings must be withheld or distorted to agree with established views. This spirit of free inquiry and teaching helps give universities and colleges their unique character.

The chief importance of academic freedom is that society benefits from the knowledge discovered by scholars. Yet, the history of academic freedom is largely the history of the many attacks on it.

Beginnings. The idea of academic freedom developed with the rise of universities in Europe during the 1100's and 1200's. The scholars at those institutions wanted freedom to pursue their studies. The universities governed themselves, and many became famous and powerful. But even the most powerful universities were subject to church control. The church persecuted many scholars whose ideas and teaching contradicted religious beliefs. One such scholar was the Italian astronomer and physicist Galileo. In the 1600's, the church persecuted Galileo for supporting various theories, including the one that the earth moves around the sun.

By the 1800's, the concept of academic freedom had been established in Germany, along with the idea of the university as a research institution. Professors could teach whatever they desired and could undertake any research. Students could study whatever they wanted, subject only to their taking a final examination. Such ideas influenced the growth of American universities.

In the United States, academic freedom has faced a variety of threats. In colonial times, religious intolerance presented the biggest danger to academic freedom. Universities dismissed many teachers whose religious beliefs conflicted with the established views.

During the 1800's, economic and political power became the major source of threats to academic freedom in the United States. Many private universities had wealthy benefactors as trustees, and most state universities had politically appointed trustees. Some trustees felt that the teaching in their universities should agree with their own economic and political views. As a result, a number of professors lost their jobs for teaching certain economic or political concepts. However, most university trustees respected academic freedom.

The 1900's. After World War II ended in 1945, academic freedom in the United States came under attack by many people who feared possible Communist infiltration of universities. An investigation by the Un-American Activities Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives found Communists on the faculty of a few universities. As a result, many people feared that most universities were full of Communists. A number of professors were unjustly accused of supporting Communism and lost their jobs.

In the 1960's, academic freedom faced new challenges--from the campus itself. Many students opposed the U.S. role in the Vietnam War (1957-1975)--and all forms of war as well. They resented having military research conducted on campus. They thought that funds spent for military purposes should go instead to help minority groups gain equality and to eliminate poverty and pollution. Many students also questioned the relationship of some of their courses to current problems. A number of faculty members joined the student protests.

Student unrest brought different types of academic freedom into conflict with one another. Student demands challenged the right of professors to teach and to conduct research. Similarly, student and faculty demands challenged the universities' right to decide what should be taught and what research should be conducted. This clash raised serious issues. For example, what responsibilities accompany the rights of academic freedom? To what extent does a person's academic freedom entitle him or her to interfere with that of others? The future of universities and colleges in the United States depends largely on solutions to these issues.

Contributor: A. Harry Passow, Ed.D., Former Jacob H. Schiff Prof. Emeritus of Education, Teachers College, Columbia Univ.

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Минская коллекция рефератов (old version) - дочерний проект при библиотеки LIBRARY.BY, бесплатная и постоянно пополняемая пользователями коллекция белорусских рефератов, белорусских дипломных работ, белорусских курсовых работ, белорусских контрольных, белорусских докладов и белорусских эссе. Работает с 1999 года.