Thomas Jefferson’s Conception of ‘Academic Freedom’ and Its Current Condition in American Higher Education
Garrett Ward Sheldon
The John Morton Beaty Professor of Political and Social Sciences, The University of Virginia’s College at Wise.
‘Here we are not afraid to follow the truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error, so long as reason is left free to combat it.’ -Thomas Jefferson
THOMAS JEFFERSON’S CONCEPTION OF ‘Academic Freedom’ became the standard of modern intellectual progress in America and the world. Its components of both individual freedom of inquiry in expression and debate along with lively, free and tolerant academic community were seen as essential to all other forms of progress: political, economic, social and ethical. This Jeffersonian ideal of Academic Freedom in the university and all its positive effects on the rest of American Society has come under assault throughout history from religious bigotry, social intolerance, and political ideology, most recently from the federal government’s expansion of the Title IX law during the past six years. It almost destroyed university knowledge and learning, the lively academic community as well as their attendant social and personal benefits. Continue reading Thomas Jefferson and academic freedom