Academic Freedom and Online Classes

Academic Freedom and Online Classes

Jerry Brown
Jerry Brown

A Governor’s Attack on Academic Freedom – Ethics Sage

This blog first appeared as an article on February 18, 2013 in The Chronicle of Higher Education. It challenges California Governor Jerry Brown’s recent intrusion into the process of academic freedom. Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2013-14 budget for California intrudes on academic freedom in a way that could harm the 23 campuses of California State University and the 10 campuses of the University of California—but the impact of his attempt to control academic decision-making threatens every public college and university in the country.

Putting aside for the moment the fairness of Brown’s proposed $250-million increase for both the CSU and UC systems, and an additional $10-million to each one to develop online courses, the governor’s budget attempts to dictate how the increased funds should be spent. That is a violation of academic freedom, the bedrock of colleges and universities.

Universities exist to promote the public interest, not to further the interests of individual professors, the institution as a whole, or, in this case, the governor of California. The public interest is not served by Brown’s inserting himself into education decision-making.

A Governor’s Attack on Academic Freedom – Ethics Sage

Online education has its uses. I teach online classes myself. But to mandate that colleges and universities devote certain resources to this is silly. It appears that the “very serious” people, the “villagers,” the Washington elite, etc., have decided that online education is a wonderful way to cut costs and is roughly equal to regular classroom education. It isn’t. It’s a different kind of animal. It takes different teaching methods and different student attitudes to work. It is not applicable to every field and endeavor. It’s limitations and advantages are not yet fully understood. Using it as a broad means of cheapening education without enough experience in its use is madness.

The processes of education in Western civilization have taken many centuries to develop. However, there are more than a few people who want to throw all those centuries of educating the “whole” man away and replacing it with the fastest, cheapest vocational training possible. Didn’t Rick Scott explain the logic …

Spending money on science and math degrees can help Floridians find work and provide a return on taxpayers’ investments, Gov. Rick Scott said today in an interview on “The Marc Bernier Show” on WNDB-AM in Daytona Beach.

Scott said Florida doesn’t need “a lot more anthropologists in this state.”

“It’s a great degree if people want to get it. But we don’t need them here,” Scott said.

“I want to spend our money getting people science, technology, engineering and math degrees. That’s what our kids need to focus all of their time and attention on: Those type of degrees that when they get out of school, they can get a job.”

Actually, we need whole human beings who can appreciate civics, art, architecture, literature, history, etc., those subjects that develop judgment and intellectual power. Those people are effective citizens.
So, let’s keep academic decision making at the college and university level.
James Pilant
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