Some state legislators want to introduce an “academic bill of rights.” This legislation would be like a patient’s bill of rights, in that certain activities are curtailed and others are promoted and all are legally binding. To me, the academic bill of rights sounds more like trying to promote good teaching with some scary sounding prohibitions that could open the door to curtailments of the U.S. Constitution’s first ammendment. The Bill is promoted by Republicans and, more than likely, is a response to the fear that conservative ideology is actively discriminated against on a mass scale. You can read a Waterglass debate about it here.
As such, here are snipets of the proposed academic bill of rights:
As Introduced by the 126th General Assembly, Regular Session, 2005-2006, S. B. No. 24 A BILL To enact sections 3345.80 and 3345.81 of the Revised Code to establish the academic bill of rights for higher education.
Senators Mumper, Jordan, Cates, Wachtmann
(A) The institution shall provide its students with a learning environment in which the students have access to a broad range of serious scholarly opinion pertaining to the subjects they study. In the humanities, the social sciences [emphasis mine --ed.], and the arts, the fostering of a plurality of serious scholarly methodologies and perspectives shall be a significant institutional purpose. In addition, curricula and reading lists in the humanities and social studies shall respect all human knowledge in these areas and provide students with dissenting sources and viewpoints.
Sounds like good teaching except for the last sentence. There is not enough time to promote all theories. The best thing to do is make sure the student has good research skills to find out some info on their own.
(C) Faculty and instructors shall not infringe the academic freedom and quality of education of their students by persistently introducing controversial matter into the classroom or coursework that has no relation to their subject of study and that serves no legitimate pedagogical purpose.
NOW we’re getting into the scary territory. If there is a major social event happening, why can’t we talk about it classes that don’t deal specifically with that event? If we teach research methods, should we not talk about the War? If we teach 16th Century English literature, should we not talk about Abu Ghriab? When, exactly, can I talk about these things? Is discussion of current events not inherently pedagogical? This sounds like an infringement on free speech. Hardly a case of giving away state secrets or yelling fire in a crowded classroom.
(D) University administrators, student government organizations, and institutional policies, rules, or procedures shall not infringe the freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom of conscience of students and student organizations.
Does this apply to extreme right wing hate groups? Or extreme left wing hate groups? Isn’t this already in the U.S. Constitution?
(F) Faculty and instructors shall be free to pursue and discuss their own findings and perspectives in presenting their views, but they shall make their students aware of serious scholarly viewpoints other than their own through classroom discussion or dissemination of written materials, and they shall encourage intellectual honesty, civil debate, and the critical analysis of ideas in the pursuit of knowledge and truth.
Once again, just good teaching. But see (A) above.
Classrooms are not bully pulpits. However, I don’t like the idea of a politician telling me what I can discuss and when I can discuss it. I suppose passage of this bill opens the door to frivolous law suits of students who weren’t told some ancient theory about something, claiming political discrimination. We really do need tort reform in these cases.