Why Bother with Academic Freedom?

Robert Post, Yale Law School


It is a wicked pleasure to read Versions of Academic Freedom. The field of academic freedom is presently rife with controversy and debate. There are endless animated controversies about its meaning and requirements. Much of the debate is sheer foolishness, and no one is better at exposing its absurdity than Stanley Fish. His book is a page-turner, filled with fresh new material and forceful, evocative analysis. It is both entertaining and educational. I should say at the outset that I largely agree with the thrust of Fish's thesis. Like Fish, I believe that academic freedom exists to protect the ability of academics to pursue their professional tasks.' Academic freedom does not concern human freedom generally, but rather the autonomy of the scholarly profession. This simple premise is sufficient to cut through much of the bluster that envelops so many modern disputes about academic freedom.