Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Academic Freedom

I'm struggling right now with the notion of academic freedom in higher education in Canada. I'm thinking about this notion in the context of religious higher education. At the institution where I teach, all faculty are required to function within a certain framework of belief. If any work of the faculty fall outside of this framework of belief, then there might be a problem. Technically, this might seem to indicate a lack of academic freedom, though it is also a move against the agreed-upon framework of belief.

At my institution, I am restricted by a framework of religious belief. At all institutions, all academic work is restricted by an agreed upon framework of belief. There are certain subjects and viewpoints that are not acceptable even at public universities, and that might jeopardize employment.

I suppose the crux of the discussion is, what does academic freedom actually mean? What does it mean to have academic freedom within the bounds of explicitly-stated religious belief? What does it mean to have academic freedom within the bounds of implicitly-stated agreed-upon discourse?

I am struggling with these questions, in the light of CAUT's continued blacklisting of religious-based academic institutions.

Monday, October 03, 2011

What to say, what to say...

I'm preparing for class this afternoon, and wondering why I've forgotten my Dr. Martens boots at home.

I'm discussing the notion of appropriation with my class today, and using Dr. Martens boots as an example. The first experience I have with these kinds of boots were my friends wearing them in high school (the early 1990s). The people that I hung around with that wore them were of a certain ethnic group that are stereotypically well-off. In this case, I think they were, but I can't be certain. But they did wear the boots.

The other groups who wore the boots then were the local "skinheads." I was never sure if they were real skinheads or not (I remember one fellow in my class was rather quiet and seemingly kind, so this seemed to not quite mesh with the picture we might have of roving violent gangs). I do remember some of these folk at my high school wearing clothing that denounced racism, so maybe these were the nice kinds.

My sister used to mention that one of her professors in Biology wore Docs. I thought that was interesting (and I think my sister wore Docs before I did). Once I went to college (to take theology) after a few years at university, I also bought my first pair of Docs, for utilitarian reasons. We needed shoes to wear to chapel; there was a dress code in place. I thought it would be easiest to get a pair of shoes I could wear all the time, and the Docs seemed to fit the bill. So that's what I bought. I wore those for years, then amassing all sorts of pairs: a couple of 3-eyelet pairs of shoes, both black and oxblood; two pairs of boots, "greasers" (which I still have) and a pair of shiny black ones (the first pair of boots, probably upon going to grad school).

At some point, I wanted to get another pair of boots, but found out that they were no longer made in England (they have since introduced a line that continues to be produced in England). So I moved to another brand, Blundstone boots, which have proved to be more comfortable to me. But immediately after I bought mine, they also announced that they would no longer be made in Tazmania. So, mine were the last of the Australian Blundstones. I need new ones soon, and I'm trying to decide whether to go with new Blunnies (made in China, probably), or return to Docs (English-made).

In any case, these are an interesting example of appropriation. What I think is an excellent question to ask is, what do Docs (or Blunnies, for that matter), mean to me? Why do I wear them? For certain, there is much more that simple utility going on here.