Response to the American Federation of Teachers' Latest Attack · 12 December 2005

By Sara Dogan--SAF--12/13/05

The American Federation of Teachers' latest irresponsible attack on the Academic Bill of Rights titled "Guarding Against the Wrong 'Bill of Rights'" is largely a repetition of previous falsehoods, which have been previously refuted.

The AFT's description of the Academic Bill of Rights as "an attempt to legislate equal consideration of all views in the classroom and flush out perceived liberal bias" is false. The text of the Bill says nothing about "equal consideration of all views." Instead it encourages intellectual diversity and states that "exposing students to the spectrum of significant scholarly viewpoints on the subjects examined in their courses is a major responsibility of faculty." All viewpoints are not "significant." And there is no requirement built into the bill, only an encouragement. Perhaps the AFT does not understand the English language.

The American Council on Education released a statement in June affirming the importance of intellectual diversity in education, stating that "Intellectual pluralism and academic freedom are central principles of American higher education." Notably, the AFT radicals attacked this statement and the 27 organizations, including the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) who chose to sign on to it.

The AFT also criticizes the recent agreement reached in Ohio between sponsors of a bill based on the Academic Bill of Rights and the Inter-University Council, a group representing Ohio's universities. "Even independent agreements are hazardous, as they can limit faculty autonomy in the classroom and squelch freedom of expression." The AFT is apparently unaware that existing faculty guidelines at Ohio's major universities already limit faculty autonomy. Is there a profession that does not require its members to observe professional standards? Why should teachers be any different?

Finally, the AFT claims that the Academic Bill of Rights is a "solution in search of a problem." If there is no problem, how come the American Council of Education, representing 1800 educational organizations and institutions thinks there is? Enough of a problem to warrant its June statement. In this statement, the American Council on Education called on universities to ensure "access to a clear institutional process" by which violations of academic freedom can be addressed, including political discrimination against students.

By pretending problems don't exist the AFT serves its members ill and stands in the way of educational progress.