Trigger Warnings in Annapolis

Midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy / National Museum of the U.S. Navy

The immediate subject of Joanna Williams’s depressing but compellingly written chronicle of the threats to Anglo-American academia over the last several decades is the concerted attack, first by the professors themselves and now by students, against the academic freedom of the title. Academic freedom is the ability of the professorate to express, explore, and teach even those ideas that don’t happen to be cut to this decade’s fashions.

Thus academic freedom and its enemies may seem initially to be a narrow issue, of interest to few outside the now dwindling number of tenured professors who thought they were free to follow truth, and who discover instead that they can be shouted down by colleagues or students who feel that what the professor is saying “supports oppression.” Even worse, in Williams’s view, are those who self-censor to get their writing published and gain advancement while avoiding disapproval.