Academic freedom is an essential part of the liberty we share here in the United States. As a young political science undergraduate student taught in the Benedictine tradition, I had learned early that academic freedom had originated as far back as Aristotle, who taught, “it is the mark of an educated mind to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
Academic freedom, simply put, allows for objective analysis of different scientific facts. It is part of the foundation of learning and fundamental to the First Amendment rights we enjoy. This established freedom is absolutely essential to how we explore scientific questions, how we learn about evidence, develop critical thinking skills and respond appropriately and respectfully to different opinions on controversial viewpoints.
It is through the critical examination of scientific evidence that facilitates how we inform students, allow them to develop deductive/inductive reasoning skills to become intelligent, productive and well-informed citizens. A free society should never restrict free discussion in the classroom.
Sadly our education system in America has seemed to have gone too far the other way. We are now paying the price for our restriction of free thinking in the overwhelming evidence and consequences of an uneducated society and permanent underclass.
Former President John F. Kennedy, who was an advocate of academic freedom in the classroom said, “Too often we enjoy the convenience of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”
You see, Kennedy and presidents like Teddy Roosevelt always felt that academic freedom should be a bipartisan issue for all Americans. The ability for Oklahoma students to discuss and question controversial issues in the classroom is part and parcel of learning. Our Oklahoma teachers should also in turn be able to facilitate discussion of scientific theories without fear of reprimand or losing one’s job, because as someone once said, “It is the supreme art of teaching to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”
We all know it’s through the critical thinking and circular reasoning of young minds that have gone on to create the greatest discoveries of mankind. That’s why scientific inquiry is so important.
To date, 16 different states have proposed academic freedom bills and Tennessee, Louisiana and Texas have passed versions of them into law. They believe, as all freedom-loving Oklahomans should, that” we should never restrict free discussion and inquiry in the classroom.”
That’s why passing Senate Bill 393 is so important. I hope everyone who supports our Constitution will get behind it. Albert Einstein said it best. “The most important thing is to never stop questioning.”
As someone who has been blessed with a great liberal arts education, I truly believe, in the end, “reason obeys itself.” Isn’t it amazing how universal laws seem to always work?
I urge everyone to support academic freedom in Oklahoma schools.