#DAF returns with a history lesson

Today, my second online “Dispatches on Academic Freedom” column appeared in University Affairs. Today’s column offers a brief history of academic freedom preparatory to a future column on current threats to academic freedom.

Among the matters I discuss in the column, Canadian readers of this blog might be surprised by the important role that Canada played in UNESCO’s academic freedom statement:

In 1993, the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) decided to devise and adopt an international standard-setting recommendation on the status of higher education teaching personnel. President Ronald Reagan had in 1984 withdrawn the U.S. from UNESCO. Looking for North American leadership from outside the U.S., UNESCO turned to the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, which seconded CAUT executive director Donald Savage as an expert for the project. The result is UNESCO’s 1997 “Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel.”

The UNESCO Recommendation expresses “pressing concern regarding the vulnerability of the academic community to untoward political pressures which could undermine academic freedom” and asserts “that the right to education, teaching and research can only be fully enjoyed in an atmosphere of academic freedom and autonomy for institutions of higher education and that the open communication of findings, hypotheses and opinions lies at the very heart of higher education and provides the strongest guarantee of the accuracy and objectivity of scholarship and research.”

Read the rest of the column here.

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Canada played a key role in the development of UNESCO’s 1997 academic freedom statement. Image by DC Chadwick [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons