Sunday, March 17, 2013

New President Interview part 16

New President Interview -- Part 16

Intellectual Freedom*

Q: What is the role of higher education in society? I’m revering to the big picture not just the College.

A: The academy is slightly askew to the universe because it stands from the rest of the world. Because its job is to open minds it must be nonpartisan and independent is a way that business, non profit organizations, and government agencies can never be.  The product of the academy is knowledge. Faculty point the way for students to grow and search for wisdom. Knowledge is meant to enlighten and help students grow, not to indoctrinate them.

The “war policy” of the World War I era and the loyalty oaths of the McCarthy era 1950’s are dim memories. At times of political controversy such as the Vietnam War era it was tempting for groups to target the university to press their political position.   I was involved in the protests; my picture was even front page of a New York daily for my activities.  However, that protest was to encourage a change in priorities for education.  I did not approve of “strikes” against the university concerning the war.  The classroom was for opening minds, not protests and I still believe that.

I should tell you a story that happened when I was in 8th grade.  At the time I was a baseball fan.  My team was in the World Series.  I thought the teacher should let us listen to the game during the class time.  The principal allowed the radio to be piped over the public address system if the teacher wanted it.  I wanted to listen and went on strike; no one joined me and we had the regularly scheduled class.  Several years later when in college I proudly wore my team’s hat to my college classes.  The team lost the World Series then and I ceased being a sports fan.  I have never watched a professional sports team on TV or in person since then. 

The only times a college should be involved in public policy or political debates are when the issues concern education or the college directly.  Our College is not a research institution, but we live in the shadow the standards that those research universities profess.  The quest for medical or scientific knowledge in the research university trickles down to what we teach in our College.  Learning about how people, things and systems work is fundamental to becoming valued members of our society.

Public policy debates are not issues of intellectual freedom.  Professors may speak their minds are citizens. Intellectual freedom is a freedom to learn and teach what one thinks is best for the students.

Q: Thank you very much.

*Part sixteen of an imaginary interview with the president of the College.   Note this is just for your information and edification. Any connection to a real college president is strictly coincidental. 

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