Tuesday, February 03, 2009

you are free except to be restricted

In 1949, Raymond B. Allen (pictured at left), then president of the University of Washington at Seattle, published an article titled "Communists Should Not Teach in American Colleges." (It appeared in a magazine called Educational Forum in May of that year.)

Allen did not mean that people actively involved in plots to overthrow the American government by violence should be banned from teaching at American colleges and universities. He would have meant it had that been an issue, but it wasn't. No, he meant those whose beliefs are determined (by him or by a panel of administrator and faculty) to be communist should be pulled from the classroom. Since bona fide members of the CPUSA in those Cold War days were not typically open about their membership, this wasn't simply a matter of ascertaining membership. Real communists might not even be formal members. So beliefs (what they did, what they said, whom they met with) could be used to determine such status.

Anyway, surely the most interesting sentence in this essay is this one:

The University's insistence upon academic freedom goes beyond the traditionally held concept that academic freedom can be abridged only by the institution and asserts that members of the faculty must likewise be free from other restraints that may restrict their freedom.

It means that faculty are free in the usual way that academic freedom guarantees but, at the same time, that faculty must be free from "other restraints." Must be. Those other restraints are ideologies that tend to make one unfree in one's thinking. So, having academic freedom, you are not free to engage in a way of thinking that limits your thinking. Of course this was a vague way of referring to communist ideology. A faculty member, Allen thought, could proceed intellectually and pedagogically under any set of principles or ideas, even those--let's say one's Catholicism even if one is a biologist exploring conception--that otherwise limit one's exploration of research topics...any set of principles except this one (communism).

In other words, academic freedom is the granting of freedom but it is also a demand that one must be free from an unfree worldview determined by the university to be such.

My position that Communists are not qualified to be teachers, Allen also wrote, grows out of my belief that freedom has little meaning apart from the integrity of the men and women who enjoy that freedom....The Communist Party, with its concealed aims and objectives, with its clandestine methods and techniques, with its consistent failure to put its full face forward, is a serious reflection upon the integrity of educational institutions that employ its members and upon a whole educational system that has failed to take the Communist issue seriously.... The classroom has been called "the chapel of democracy." As the priests of the temple of education, members of the teaching profession have a sacred duty to remove from their ranks the false and robot prophets of Communism....

Here's to whole article from '49.

The photograph of Allen above at left was printed in the Washington Post on March 27, 1949.