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A Discussion on Academic Freedom

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James Madison once said, A people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power that knowledge gives. A popular government without the means of acquiring information is a prologue to a tragedy. It is because I agree with Madison that I stand in strong affirmation of the resolution, When in conflict, academic freedom in U.S. High Schools ought to be valued above community standards. To better clarify the round I offer the following definitions (definitions). The ultimate value that will be upheld in todays debate will be that of Knowledge, knowledge is generally defined as acquaintance with fact or truth. It is the state of knowing or understanding. I have one observation dealing with my value: my opponent my argue that knowledge is undesirable because the information we require my be untrue and leads us astray. You should note that this argument is illegitimate because it does not attack knowledge; it attacks false hood, which by definition cannot be knowledge. My value will be supported through my Criterion of the Cost Benefit Analysis, where I will show you that the benefits we as a society would receive through academic freedom greatly outweigh the costs. Therefore the person that can show more benefits than cost through their value should win the round. I will now proceed to uphold my value through three main levels of analysis. The first level will consist of showing how community standards cannot be defined in a society such as ours. Second I will show how restricting academic freedom makes society more vulnerable to irrational prejudices. And finally the third level will express how the marketplace of ideas is necessary in Americas High Schools.

My first level of analysis: Community Standards cannot be defined in a society such as ours. The first step in this level will be the realization that only personal standards exist. Supreme Court Justice Stewart once stated that he could probably never accurately define pornography but he knew it when he saw it. Stewart also helped draft in Miller vs. California the definition of Obscenity. That definition deemed community standards as legal criterion for defining something obscene. However, lets take a logical approach to this statement. Stewart did not say that he knew what pornography was when the community told him that it was; he said he knew it when he saw it. We can simply conclude that by saying this the Supreme Court justice was not applying community standards, he was applying his own personal standards. My second step will show how a Community Standard Cannot be Achieved. In many studies conducted across the United States law schools and Law reviews have been unable to find any community standards that would apply to the entire community. In other words they have found standards that would apply to a single family and maybe their neighbor, but never a standard that would be approved by the community as a whole. A perfect example of this would be our country and the way it is run. Our government is set up the way it is because our founding fathers knew that people would not think alike and could not be restricted to the views and standards of a single family or individual. We cannot expect people to bow down to standards that they do not believe in, especially when these standards affect the way their children are taught. Because of this fact we cannot assume that a single community standard exist for everyone, no matter where you live.

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Now on to my second level of analysis: Restricting academic freedom will make society more vulnerable to irrational prejudices. My first step will deal with the topic of Race Superiority. H. G. Wells once stated that, Racism is when you have laws set up, systematically put in a way to keep people from advancing, to stop the advancement of a people. In order to understand this we must go back to where these prejudices came from and why. The leaders that passed laws increasing racism where taught that it was okay to think that one race was better than another, and the school boards at that time were in complete control of the teachers and their curriculum. Because of this we can safely say that the standards set up by the school boards where the reason that segregation laws were passed. The opinions of a few not only restrict what our children can learn but they also effect what will happen to our country in the future, wither it be for good or for bad. My second step will define the Intent of Separation of Church and Education. Religious teachings were taken out of schools due to the fact that the government did not want teachers to endorse or push a certain religious belief upon students as to only offer them a single point of view. Even when children go home they are put in a situation where a bias opinion is presented to them in the area of religion. Under the current laws and restrictions placed upon schools the only way a child can learn about any religion other than what their parents present to them is to go out on their own. This is when we must look to the definition of academic freedom. The definition tells us that all viewpoints will be presented and not just one. This includes all religions and the main ideas surrounding them. This will only promote respect of other peoples religious believes and less of a superiority complex that has become a big problem in todays youth.

On to my third level of analysis: The marketplace of ideas is necessary in Americas High Schools. Frederick Frieseke once said, The key to your universe is the right you have to choose. Step one in this level will show that the Right to Choose no longer exists in Public Education. Children a have right to learn; however, when we look at public education the students do not have the right to choose what they want to learn. This may be argued that a student has a right to pick certain classes for electives, this is true. But I am not talking about the right to choose classes; I am talking about what is being taught in the classes. Students should have the right to learn more than what a small group of adults think they should. If a student wants to learn more about a certain subject he must provide his own means of doing so. However, the limits placed upon on their education also extend to the computers and libraries in the schools, and in many cases even the public libraries, making it even harder for a student to increase their knowledge on a particular subject. Step number two will present how the Right to Choose Must be Present in High Schools. Until an adolescent reaches the age of eighteen he or she is required by law to be in school for a certain amount of hours each year. The reason for this law is to make sure that our country consist of well rounded, educated people. However our public school system is a contradiction of itself. If we require students to come to school and to be taught, the school has an obligation to educate the student. The marketplace of ideas symbolizes the learning process. In order for a person to make a decision and learn from it, they must have more than one thing to choose from, otherwise there is no choice to be made and in result no knowledge is gained. Plain and simple, if we require students to be in school, we must require the schools to teach and not read a script.

I have clearly shown that academic freedom must be valued above community standards in order to preserve knowledge. Through my three levels of analysis it has been shown that since we have no community standards we cannot follow them. I have also proven that by restricting academic freedom we are leaving our country vulnerable, and that a marketplace of ideas is vital for US high schools. It is obvious that the benefits of academic freedom outweigh the cost, and for that reason I urge an affirmative vote, thank you.

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A Discussion on Academic Freedom. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 3, 2023, from
“A Discussion on Academic Freedom.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2022,
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