Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Business Interests, Tneure Track, and Academic Freedom

Academic freedom is part of our Bill of Rights. The protection of freedom of speech is a necessity in a free society. This was understood to be protected in the university by tenure track. Tenure track assured the professor of a job. Tenure is a vote of confidence that the professor will be responsible and faithful in continuing to maintain an attitude of learning in a learning environment. Tenure allows the professor to speak of challenging subjects for the sake of education and the development of "knowledge". The Academy should be about the business of being stewards of God's gift of reason.

Tenure means that others with lesser knowledge affirm and respect knowledge and the professor in their choice of vocation. This environment breeds an openness to their educational understanding and input. This culture also breeds a humility because it affirms that God is too great to be confined within our own specific discipline or limited views, even in regards to one's specialty in disciplinary knowledge.

But, what happens if business interests interfere with accademic freedom? How can this be? Suppose there was an invention that was based upon Newton's understanding of gravity, and business interests were invested in this invention being protected. Wouldn't it limit the Academy in education, if the business interests would feel threatened by the new information of Quantum theory? At what costs, then, are the business interests? Is it only the costs of the moment's educational "loss" of Quantum theory? Or is it much more? And, is tenure track a way for business interest to over-ride their interests over the interests of education?

People have been endowed by their Creator with reason. Reason is a gift which must be developed within the Academy. The individual's development is at stake when business interests collide with the educational interests of the individual. Which is most important? The investment and monies that will be attained at the costs of the individual? Or is the individual more important than the business investment?

As a Christian, I would believe that the individual is more important than the investment, because the individual is not a commodity to be bought and sold, but a human being whose development must be nutured. We must re-assess our values as a "Christian society". Although I think it is right and good that an individual can pursue his own interests (investments), I don't believe that American culture should affirm the market to the extent it does. Academic freedom and tenure track is a value to be upheld!

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