Daily The Hindu Editorials Notes (13th Aug 2019) Mains Sure Shot
GS-1 or GS-2 Mains
Q. In the present wave where there is growing intolerance towards contrary opinion, throw a light on academic freedom. Discuss (250 words)
Context: the perilous state of academic freedom.
What do we mean by intolerance?
•According to Article 19, Right to freedom includes- the freedom of speech and expression.
•So, since expressing an opinion is a fundamental right it also means that everyone has the freedom to claim that his/her opinion is true.
•But the truth of one’s statement is to be based on contestation and scrutiny by others.
•The problem arises when one refuses scrutiny and believes that their opinion cannot be wrong, and this gives rise to intolerance when someone presents a contrary opinion.
What is academic freedom and how is it affected?
•To understand academic freedom, we need to understand the different types of opinions. Broadly, there are two types- based on belief, heresy, opinion of others, and lesser research. And other is one based on through research, less biased, withstands the test of time and has greater openness in accepting fallibility (that they might be wrong).
•Therefore, there is qualitative difference between both the opinions.
•The second category of opinion deserves to be called or can be called ‘Knowledge.’
•So, based on the above analysis we can say that knowledge-production begins with opinions but does not end with them because it is willing to be scrutinized, criticized and reinvented.
•Academic freedom means providing and protecting the space where opinion can be created, contested and scrutinized. This is a process that leads to superior knowledge production. Cumulatively, it helps us understand the world around us in a better way, both in terms of science, and humanities.
•And since academic freedom occurs through knowledge production and knowledge transmission by transmitting agents such as teachers, students and researchers, it mostly happens within academic institutions. So, the autonomy of academic institutions is important.
When do we say it is threatened?
1.When ideas or opinions are applauded or condemned not for their content but with an eye on who articulated (said) them- one of ‘us’ or one of ‘them’.
2.When a person’s caste, creed, or political orientation matters more than the evidence, or the argument provided. For example- late historian Mushirul Hasan, was victimized by extremist fellow- Muslims for his remark on the ban of author Salman Rushdie’s book ‘Satanic Verses.’
3.At present the deepening societal intolerance has only intensified attacks on academic freedom. For example- the exclusion of several important books from university syllabi, entirely on non-academic grounds, exemplifies this.
4.Also, state interference has increased, sacrificing critical pedagogical practices in the name of the government idea of national interest.
5.Also, when knowledge becomes a commodity i.e. when universities are run as a corporation. It means that the university’s administration run as management, faculty as paid personal and student as consumers, who have a right to demand of what should be taught as if knowledge can be purchased as commodity according to one’s taste.
6.But the most severe challenge to academic freedom or the world of knowledge is from an environment of ‘anti-intellectualism’ that finds the very idea of someone having a thought reprehensible (unacceptable). Thinking, reasoning, questioning and critique are marked as dangerous, which must be treated with utter disdain (dislike).
7.When the distinction between knowledge and opinion is absolutely blurred.
8.And finally, when the very idea that the task of education is to transform students into critical agents, who actively question common-sense of the society, is severely undermined.
•Sadly, these are the challenges we face today.
•If academic freedom is not maintained and the trends continue, the habit of critical thinking and questioning among the people will decline. And these qualities are essential for a democracy to survive.
•It will also lead to ‘brain-drain’- the bright students will emigrate to other countries where there is academic freedom and it will not be easy to recover from this blow.
•People must be sensitized about values for which our freedom fighters fought for and sacrificed their life for the cause.
•The change has to come from within.
Boss Kindly Note it : Other articles of today’s Hindu-
•An Abrogation of democratic principles is on Article 370 and has already been covered earlier in much detail.
•Countering the Right’s hegemony is political in nature.
•Rooting AI in ethics has already been covered earlier.