Archive for March, 2009

Academic Freedom
March 17, 2009

Having encountered and studied intellectual freedom almost exclusively from a public library standpoint, it seems to me that there is a much more wide-spread awareness–on the part of everyone involved–of upholding intellectual freedom in public libraries than there is in academia.  And in the greater intellectual freedom discussion, it seems to me that academic issues are often overshadowed by the prominence that public forum, free speech, and unrestricted access to information lend to public library issues.  Whether or not this is the case, this book review/opinion piece by Stanley Fish gets at a lot of crucial points about the state of academic freedom, presently, and raises many questions and points that are worth considering.

Radical Reference’s Un-Conference at ACRL
March 13, 2009

I spent most of my day yesterday in an un-conference hosted by Radical Reference.  The “un” element of the un-conference was to build in a safe distance from the “official” events at this year’s ACRL conference in Seattle.  Having what you might call an acquaintance with Radical Reference, the un-conference was a great chance for me to get to know some of the members, discuss crucial (often intellectual freedom-related) issues, and get involved.  It will no doubt turn out to be the most constructive, engaging, and lasting element of the entire conference for me.

At the un-conference, we had a great set of discussions, most notably one that focused on promoting critical pedagogy in academic libraries.  Critical pedagogy is not only a more interactive, engaging, and diplomatic way of teaching, it also promotes a levelling of the traditional teacher-student hierarchy and inbues the entire teaching/learning experience with a more substantial foundation of intellectual freedom.  If you’ve not done so already, visit Radical Reference‘s website and check out the un-conference wiki, which highlights the topics and events as well as provides notes and further resources about many crucial issues in libraries.

The “Sacredness” of Free Expression
March 8, 2009

A wonderful insight from the dramatic, yet eloquent and intelligent, Christopher Hitchens:

No, nothing is sacred. And even if there were to be something called sacred, we mere primates wouldn’t be able to decide which book or which idol or which city was the truly holy one. Thus, the only thing that should be upheld at all costs and without qualification is the right of free expression, because if that goes, then so do all other claims of right as well.

Looking back at Salman Rushdie’s fatwa struggle, this is how Hitchens has decided he should’ve answered the question, “Is nothing sacred?” which was posed to him during the fatwa by a Muslim journalist.  Now a famous and textbook example of the importance of freedom of speech, it’s amazing to recall how many governments, fellow writers, etc.–people and organizations that purport to defend free speech–failed to stand up for Rushdie.  Many even claimed that he deserved the fatwa for speaking so critically toward a powerful religion.

Rushdie is one of my most beloved authors, for his writing first and foremost.  But the stand that he took against what Hitchens calls a “cultural fatwa” is one that not only deserves its now famous and lauded status but is an event–a life or death struggle–that needs to be remembered and understood.  Not that I have any fear of its importance dissolving, but even I sometimes skip over another article or quote that rehashes the event, feeling as though I’ve read all there was to read about this issue and patting myself on the back for being comfortable in my own convictions.  Well, in repentance for these lazy assumptions, I’d definitely encourage checking out Hitchens’s article in Vanity Fair about all of this which, if a bit informal and irreverent, is great gloss on Rushdie’s struggle and a reminder of the sacredness of free expression.