Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

The thing that has always puzzled me most about academic freedom is why it should apply to academics and nobody else. True, we all have certain rights to free speech, but for the rest of us, this can come at the cost of losing our jobs. Now to be clear, academic freedom isn't "an untrammelled right to say what they like on any issue." There is an expectation that the right comes with "an underlying obligation to justify their public utterances through the application of disciplinary expertise and values." But again, why shouldn't that be the case for everyone? I think that, with some notable exceptions, we can generally expect this sort of freedom. The focus, both in academia and elsewhere, seems to be on the flip side, where the speakers in question are promoting conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated rumour. What are the limits of our tolerance for such speech, and how do we decide whether something is credible and evidence-based or not credible and speculative?

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada
stephen@downes.ca

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Last Updated: May 06, 2021 3:08 p.m.