02 May 2008

Texas Higher Education and Creation Research, Part 27

The Institute for Creation Research (ICR) is predictably upset about not being allowed to offer Master's degrees in science education.

They have now issued a press release announcing that they have put their entire application on-line. The title of this press release?

"Academic freedom in the balance."

I'm going to give a serious answer before tossing off a one-liner.

Academic freedom is an absolutely essential part of academic life, much discussed, but it is easily misinterpreted. In the United States, pretty much the gold standard for defining academic freedom was made back in 1940. My own institution still refers to it in our handbook of operating procedures. It's a statement from the American Association of University Professors. It's short, readable, and online here.

The statement is all about protecting teachers. It describes academic freedom in terms of a relationship between individuals and their institutions. Everything concerns what an individual is allowed to say without risk of losing her job.

This is substantially different from what ICR is talking about, which is a relationship between an institution and an accrediting agency. Accreditation is a very different matter than tenure. So really, crying "foul" about academic freedom misses the mark.

That's the serious answer.

The one-liner is that "academic freedom" is not code for, "Validation of any random idea that you happen to have have."

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