As July 4th approaches, I’m reminded most of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. There’s something to be said for encountering, studying, and thinking about ideas with which we don’t agree, and I’ve always thought that something to be “education.” But as many challenges to text and curricula make evident—NCTE responded to 64 this year—some people don’t agree.
In fact, public schools and teachers (K-16+) are bound to offer their students controversial material even if they don’t agree with it. Because, you see, looking at all sides of an issue and being able to express widely varied opinions are basic democratic principles. And they are academic freedoms that must pervade schools if we are to educate students to become the best citizens of our democracy; educate them to make up their own minds.
The NCTE Principles for Intellectual Freedom in Education point out,
“All students have the right to materials and educational experiences that promote open inquiry, critical thinking, diversity in thought and expression, and respect for others. Denial or restriction of this right is an infringement of intellectual freedom.”