Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Churchill and Academic Freedom

The infamous Ward Churchill is in the news again as the current CU Boulder president has noted that he should be fired. Predictably, there are a lot of professors taking Churchill’s side in this argument, not a few of them trumpeting the “catch-all” freedom of speech defense.

If there is still any confusion about this issue, Churchill should be fired for doing what any student or applicant would be kicked out of school for doing—plagiarizing and falsifying information in your school records. Churchill is not an academic in any serious sense of the word. He is a myopic political ideologue.

And if there is still any confusion about whether the school has a leaning in Churchill’s favor, consider the case of acclaimed history professor, Phil Mitchell. A highly awarded and tenured history professor, Dr. Mitchell was fired from his position for using the book, In His Steps in a religious history class. (In His Steps is the turn-of-the-century book that inspired the “WWJD” question.) Without any defense from the faculty senate (which cannot let go of Churchill) and without much ink spilled in the press, Mitchell was let go.

This is another example of a theory I have concerning Christians in the Academy. Not only is it a calling by God for a committed Christian to be an active and winsome part of the Ivory Tower, but they face an atmosphere that is currently making them the leading thinkers and researchers in the English-speaking world. When a Christian academic needs to argue their point every step of the way and win their positions of tenure and publication, they will certainly come out sharper and brighter than those who have it easy. Churchill will be able to find a position at just about any major University, not because he is convincing, innovative, and thoughtful, but because he is a poster boy for so much of the academic establishment.

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