Academic Freedom and Free Speech

Dear Subscriber,

I’m still “under consideration” at Strange Horizons for my horror/historical fiction Cousins. That information made my day. I told a writer friend that they’ll probably want to censor the sex scene in part 2 of my story in Norway, but I would fight for it.

Speaking of “fighting,” I used to teach argument and research for many years at the college level. There are a few candidates running for President of the United States that question what can go on inside a classroom, and I wanted to debate the issue a little bit here. Feel free to tune out if you don’t like debate.

Academic freedom in a nutshell means that the teachers and the students have the existential right to debate and research any topic, and its related topics, as long as everyone in the process has the same freedom to do so.
Most especially, a teacher or student can’t insist that only his/her/their theory and/or opinion is the only correct one. Why? Because this shuts down the right under the First Amendment for the individual freedom to inquire for oneself. It’s the free and open act of inquiry and debate that’s protected. It’s as simple as that.
The individual’s right to freely examine all issues and facts supersedes any student, teacher, administrator, or other public/private official’s right to control and/or eliminate that “free and open discussion” allowed under the Constitution of the United States.
As I used to teach my college students in Advanced Argument and Research, “Everybody has a right to his/her opinion on any issue, as long as it’s stated that it’s only an individual’s opinion.” Once an individual expresses as “fact” that his/her/their opinion is the only one to be accepted, it no longer can be considered an accepted and democratically arrived at “fact.” Even so-called “democratically arrived at facts” are open to inquiry and possible rebuttal in all scientific endeavors that exist in the pursuit of knowledge.
Limits to this freedom can happen, but only for the general clear and present safety of the humans involved in the inquiry. For example, if the inquiry involved the possible physical or mental harm of the persons doing the inquiry, then agreed-upon controls can be stipulated for the safety of the persons involved. This kind of control, also, becomes debatable, as we’ve seen in many instances, such as the development and testing of nuclear weapons, the use of military and prison populations for biological and other dangerous tests (and wars), and the imposing of government, state, church, and groups and their “powers,” who want to control students and what they can inquire into during their course of studies.
To be precise, Amendment One is also closely related to publishing, so if academia is conquered by special and/or religious interests, then controls will begin (and they already have) to censor content and its availability to the citizens. So, keep your free choice free and don’t get fooled by false flag waving to protect parents’ rights, when what you’re doing is censoring all rights.
Take care, and keep reading.
James Musgrave
San Diego, CA
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