To the Editor:
Recent policies aimed at tackling alleged indoctrination in higher education (“Idaho Lawmakers Think Critical Race Theory Can ‘Exacerbate and Inflame Divisions.’ So They Passed a Law Against It,” The Chronicle, April 29) raise serious questions about academic freedom.
While the legislation covered has since been signed into law, Idaho is not alone in its attempt to micro-manage and interfere with the ideas addressed in classrooms, research, and other aspects of higher education. This is now a deeply concerning national trend.
New Hampshire and Iowa have sought to ban teaching of so-called “divisive topics.” Florida passed legislation encouraging students to record professors to highlight “bias.” And Arkansas sought to prohibit the teaching of university classes that “promotes division.”
Whether through intimidation or outright bans, limits on open inquiry work against free expression, academic freedom, and the discovery they make possible. Legislation restricting what faculty can teach is not just an impingement of academic freedom, but to quote Frederick Douglass, violates the “rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.”
Both learning and research require openness to new ideas and the ability to argue productively. That requires standing against censorship regardless of where the calls for it originate. While these proposals may be designed with that purpose in mind, it is not difficult to see how they will lead to the opposite.
Vice President of Philanthropy
Charles Koch Foundation