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22 January 2011

Amendment I Part 2? Academic Freedom

I am terrified that something like this could happen to my colleague in this day and age in the United States, simply terrified. Frances Fox Piven, a renowned scholar and former president of the American Sociological Association, has received death threats after being unceasingly hounded by conservative commentators, including the fear-mongering Glenn Beck. The framers of our Constitution had the foresight to make freedom-of-the-press a dogmatic tenet of our democracy. In effect, journalists have served as an independent watchdog of our governmental institutions. This hasn't come without its own problems, but it has proven indispensable.

One thing that the framers couldn't have foreseen was the need for academic freedom as well. Without scientific and humanistic inquiry, where would we be? Unfettering our thinkers and protecting them from direct oversight has made our nation, and our world, a better place through intellectual and technological advances. It is this tacit value that people like Beck continually undermine in their ignorant and irrational critique of academics like Piven who have dedicated their lives to improving the lives of others.

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