Free Speech & the First Amendment brought the American Library Association to a House Subcommittee Hearing on Book Bans and Academic Censorship this past April 7th, 2022.
Academic freedom, for many instructors in higher education, is a key component of free speech – going beyond simply the freedom to speak on topics but to craft course content, curriculum, and assignments. The state dictating what theories, ideas, and concepts are permitted to be included in education is tantamount to government censorship.
As big publishers increasingly become data brokers, libraries must take extra care to protect our patrons and researchers from surveillance that threatens academic freedom.
Issues relating to intellectual freedom continue to dominate news stories, including debates on critical race theory, LGTBQ materials, academic freedom, and broadband access. In the past several months various state governments have passed bills targeting school curriculum. Fueled by misinterpretations of Critical Race Theory, this has led to numerous attempts to censor or ban books that discuss race. Books discussing gender and sexuality, mainly those with LGBTQ themes, have also been targeted such as when residents in Wyoming attempted to file criminal charges against library staff. Academic freedom of faculty on college campuses are also under fire, whether for curriculum concerns (related to aforementioned bills targeting Critical Race Theory) or for providing expertise outside their capacity as an educator. Broadband access continues to be an issue as many Americans continue to rely on the internet for work, education, or various other essential functions.
Wendell Berry, in his essay, “On Edward O. Wilson’s Consilience,” voices his skepticism towards total intellectual freedom within the arts, and how, in his opinion, situations have arisen in which this freedom has been abused.
bell hooks’ writing about teaching has some pertinent lessons for today’s book challenges and proposed laws that presume students should avoid discussions of race and sexuality as much as possible. hooks shows us how this thinking is harmful and how we can help students benefit by embracing experiences of diversity.
The Texas House Committee on General Investigating, chaired by Matt Krause, has compiled a lengthy list of books that they allege contains material that might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex. Ah, the old slippery slope from soft censorship to soul crushing authoritarianism.
“The Culture War Has Come for Higher Ed,” proclaimed a recent headline in The Chronicle of Higher Education, summarizing ongoing attacks on intellectual freedom and the closely related concept of academic freedom. Although the same risks apply to academic libraries and librarians, they are often excluded from this discussion about freedoms required for teaching and research. Recognizing that academic librarians have academic freedom is only the first step, albeit an important one.
The Supreme Court has decided that schools have an interest in keeping an eye on what students post on social media sites in order to avoid “substantial disruption” on campus. But just where does campus end and how disrupting must speech be for schools to act and stay on the right side of the First Amendment?
The term intellectual freedom has been recently tossed around by state lawmakers to justify new laws targeting college campuses. The recent laws and policy changes mainly target one of three things: faculty tenure, curriculum, or freedom of speech. This post will provide an update on new laws or incidents happening in various states.