The Roots of Academic Freedom
Smith, Michael Stevenhttp://www.solidarity-us.org/site/node/3987
Publisher: Agaisnt The Current
Date Written: 01/09/2013
Year Published: 2013
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX20090
A book review of 'Priests of Our Democracy: The Supreme Court, Academic Freedom, and the Anti-Communist Purge.'
Priests of our Democracy: The Supreme Court, Academic Freedom, and the Anti-Communist Purge is a smart, well-crafted insightful book by an especially qualified author. Marjorie Heins is an unrepentant sixties radical out of SDS who went on to get a Harvard Law School degree and became a litigator, a law professor, an historian and a constitutional scholar.
Academic freedom was not gained along with the Bill of Rights just after the American Revolution, as most people think. It was not initially protected by the First Amendment, took a beating in the radical 1930s and during the Cold War, made some big gains in the sixties under the Warren Supreme Court, but still remains a fragile freedom in the wake of 9/11.
The kernel of Heins' book tells the story of the investigations and purges of Communist Party members and sympathizers who taught in the public high schools and colleges in New York City in the thirties and again in the '50s and '60s, and the Supreme Court decisions that resulted. It weaves together beautifully told personal stories with legal and political history. But it starts in the 1890s at the University of Wisconsin where I went to college and law school, and finishes with a chapter on post 9/11 developments.