A Commitment to Academic Freedom for All!
Almost a quarter of a century ago, I was hired as the first full-time, tenure-track history instructor at a small, rural campus in central California. At the time, I was told that our campus was in line to become the next independent community college in California. It took almost twenty-five years for that vision to become a reality, but in the summer of 2020, Madera Community College became #116 in the California Community College system. Thankfully, my career has lasted long enough for me to see this dream become a reality. I will, one day, be able to point to the creation of MCC as part of my legacy which will long survive me.
However, in recent years, it has become apparent that the mere creation of a new institution of higher education in California is no longer sufficient to ensure that future generations of students will have access to the same type of classical liberal education that for generations has been the hallmark of enlightened and productive minds. Critical Race Theory (CRT) and the current drive toward “anti-racism” threaten to curb academic freedom in both the curriculum and the classroom, stifle freedom of expression for students and faculty, and create generation after generation of unquestioning automatons who will blindly follow the administrative doctrine of diversity, inclusion and equity at all costs. Academic senates across the state of California are falling head over heels in the race to adopt official “anti-racism” resolutions, to pledge fidelity to the concepts contained in CRT, and to abandon principles of academic freedom and freedom of expression. After all, someone somewhere might not like something that someone else says.
I have watched with great sadness as this movement has gained strength in light of certain tragic events of the past half year and became determined to make sure that the newest community college in California did not follow the same primrose-laden path to intellectual hell. To that end, I introduced in our own academic senate a resolution committing our campus to academic freedom for professors, freedom of expression for students, and an atmosphere of free inquiry on our campus. I modeled the resolution on the Philadelphia Statement, of which the National Association of Scholars is an original signer. As our sister colleges rushed to jump on the “anti-racism” bandwagon, I am proud to say that our campus recommitted itself to the principles contained in the Philadelphia Statement. As my career is winding down, it may be my last real contribution to Madera Community College outside the classroom.
To my colleagues across the country, comrades in arms as it were, who are fighting their own battles with critical race theory and “anti-racism,” I simply say: don’t give up the struggle. The tide may have turned against us momentarily, or so it seems, but ultimately, our commitment to what we know is right and true and best for our students will prevail. But we must remain true to the cause despite the forces arrayed against us. In A Clash of Kings, George R.R. Martin’s second book of his Game of Thrones saga, one of his characters asks his associate, “How can you still count yourself a knight, when you have forsaken every vow you ever swore?” In the current struggle, we are all knights together and we need to support and encourage one another whenever we can. This is why I am humbly sharing with you the Madera Community College Academic Senate’s resolution on academic freedom.