The Academy on Capitalism and Limited Government Fund

The 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure affirms that “teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject.” This affirmation was meant to codify understandings of academic freedom commonly accepted in 1940. In recent years these understandings have become controversial. Private groups have sought to regulate classroom instruction, advocating the adoption of statutes that would prohibit teachers from challenging deeply held student beliefs or that would require professors to maintain “diversity” or “balance” in their teaching. Committee A has established this subcommittee to assess arguments made in support of recent legislative efforts in this area.

Freedom in the Classroom (2007), AAUP

Free market capitalism, limited government, individual rights, individual responsibility, enterprise and entrepreneurship are the foundation of a productive and successful American society. To promote and advance scholarly research and teaching about these vital principles, gifts from donors have established an endowment within the University of Illinois Foundation—The Academy on Capitalism and Limited Government Fund. The Fund is overseen by the Academy Fund’s board of directors and it will provide grants for programs, research and activities on the Urbana-Champaign campus in response to proposals submitted by faculty and approved by the Chancellor’s office.

The Academy on Capitalism and Limited Government Fund

Steven Forbes and Robert Novak are in the neighborhood this week, helping to launch The The Academy on Capitalism and Limited Government Fund’s inaugural conference. As the IlliniPundit would have it, “this is just the beginning of a growing effort to bring more conservative thought to the University of Illinois campus.” I think calling a large research university like the U. of I. ‘liberal’ because it hires a few high-profile critics is like calling the Bank of America ‘generous’ because it sponsors the local cancer drive.

Indeed, as the first comment notes, “I thought we already had such an academy at UIUC. It’s called the School of Business.” Or the Economics department, or… The comment writers then launch a lively but altogether irrelevant discussion of the general education requirements. What’s so unhelpful is that the writers seem unaware of the simple fact that the courses are meant to create a conversation with society at large, not to “represent” each point of view “equally.”

We live, for example, in a culture dominated by white, materially privileged men. No one needs to speak for them; they own most of the microphones. But a good education tries, at least, to offer other voices. Thus the required course in Minority Studies. That’s also why the AAUP is not interested in the specifics. Obviously, if you simply repeat the implicit arguments of the culture around you– capitalism is good, government should be limited– the powers that be will not be upset. If you want to hear that point of view you can turn on the TV.

What I find interesting, though, is the way the Academy (or its founders) seems to have been fooled into believing the bloated self-image of a small number of academic stars. If they spent a little time among the so-called liberal professors they would find that very few are anti-capitalism in any substantive sense. They are more like rich rock star paid to perform their “criticism” and then go home to their expensive cars and big houses. There just are not very many Bonos out there. (Just ask the Graduate Employees Organization.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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