Recently on the academe blog maintained by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), Hank Reichman ran some thoughts on academic freedom that Albert Einstein delivered more than half a century ago. If Reichman’s hope in doing so was to provide comfort to progressives, the ironic effect is that, although they may have been the target audience in the 1950s, modern-day conservatives, particularly in the academy, are more likely to identify with Einsten’s observations.
“The threat to academic freedom in our time must be seen in the fact that, because of the alleged external danger to our country, freedom of teaching, mutual exchange of opinions and freedom of press and other media of communication are encroached upon or obstructed,” Einstein stated. “This is done by creating a situation in which people feel their economic positions endangered.”
“Consequently, more and more people avoid expressing their opinion freely, even in their private social life.” Other than the “alleged external danger to our country” which progressives never cared much about, the rest of Einstein’s bill of particulars fits those on the right, especially that dwindling conservative cadre in the Ivory tower. I talked to one poor chap who fit that description just last week.
“This is a state of affairs which a democratic government cannot survive in the long run,” Einstein predicted.
Also worthy of note is Einstein’s advice for “resistance” to such trends. “The strength of the Constitution lies entirely in the determination of each citizen to defend it,” he averred. “Only if every single citizen feels duty bound to do his share in this defense are the constitutional rights secure.”
“Thus, a duty is imposed on everyone which no one must evade, notwithstanding risks and dangers for him and his family.”