Academic Freedom Under Fire: The Case for Critical Pedagogy
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In spite of its broad-based, even global, recognition, higher education in the United States is currently being targeted by a diverse number of right-wing forces, which have high jacked political power and have waged a focused campaign to undermine the principles of academic freedom, sacrifice critical pedagogical practice in the name of patriotic correctness, and dismantle the university as a bastion of autonomy, independent thought, and uncorrupted inquiry. Ironically, by adopting the vocabulary of individual rights, academic freedom, balance, and tolerance, private advocacy groups and individuals such as the American Council for Trustees and Alumni and David Horowitz are waging a campaign designed not merely to counter dissent but to destroy it and in doing so to eliminate all of those remaining public spaces, spheres, and institutions that nourish and sustain a democratic civil society. The article argues that there is much more at stake in the current assault on the university than the issue of academic freedom. First and foremost is the concerted attempt by right-wing extremists and corporate interests to strip the professoriate of any authority, render critical pedagogy as merely an instrumental task, eliminate tenure as a protection for teacher authority, and remove critical reason from any vestige of civic courage, engaged citizenship, and social responsibility. The article offers both a critique and some suggestions about how such an attack can be collectively resisted, especially by those of us working in the universities. There is a central focus in the article on the importance of both developing a theoretical framework for engaging critical pedagogy and developing a defense for its use in the classroom as part of a broader project of connecting education to democratic values, identities, public spaces, and relationships.
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