Okay, why is academic freedom important? Because in order to think, in order to exercise your freedom, you need to be educated – and in order for people to be educated they need to have the freedom to consider a very wide range of ideas, to have their own preconceptions questioned, and questioned vigorously. They have to learn how to tolerate ideas that are really abhorrent to them. They need to learn the difference between ideas and actions. They need to learn that people can have very different ideas, and they can debate them without coming to blows.
You know, in our world today, one way you can stop people from coming to blows about their conflicting ideas is by teaching them how to argue, and teaching them not to be afraid of argument. There’s an important difference between being embarrassed or feeling intellectually or emotionally wounded because you’re at the losing end of an argument, and actually being physically assaulted. I think it’s incredibly important for students to learn how to argue, and to learn how to appreciate and even enjoy argument.
Wendy Kaminer on academic freedom.