In its support of intellectual freedom, NCTE maintains that students have the right to materials and educational experiences that promote open inquiry, critical thinking, diversity in thought and expression, and respect for others (NCTE Position Statement on Intellectual Freedom, 2014). Academic freedom is intellectual freedom in academic contexts, though it may encompass a wider spectrum of rights, freedoms, interests, and responsibilities. The protection of academic freedom, required at all levels of education, not only serves the common good but also enhances academic integrity and the overall quality of education while protecting students from indoctrination.
Inherent in academic freedom is both a moral and educational obligation to uphold the ethics of respect and protect the values of inquiry necessary for all teaching and learning. Because situations involving academic freedom differ according to circumstances and grade level, NCTE encourages the discussion of the principles of academic freedom, listed below, within faculties and institutions for the purpose of developing policies and procedures that will protect such freedoms.
Freedom of Belief and Identity
- Educational institutions may present alternative views and values, but may not impose or require belief or commitment.
Freedom of Expression and Discussion
- In academic contexts, students and teachers have a right to express their views on any matter relevant to the curriculum.
Freedom of Inquiry
- Inquiry must not be suppressed by restricting access to particular authors, topics, or viewpoints or by hindering the formulation of objectionable conclusions.
Freedom from Indoctrination
- Educators and educational institutions must not require or coerce students to modify their beliefs or values. Efforts to convince students to modify their beliefs or values must be academically justifiable.
- Curriculum must be determined by teachers and other professionals on the basis of academic considerations. Suggested modifications of the curriculum should go through a process in place by the school or district.
Equality, Privacy, and Due Process
- All students and faculty have an equal right to academic freedom.
- Educators and educational institutions must refrain from academically unjustified inquiries into beliefs, values, interests, or affiliations of students and faculty.
- Academic institutions must ensure that their formal and informal procedures provide sufficient due process to protect intellectual freedom.
These principles are adapted from Liberty and Learning: Academic Freedom for Teachers and Students (Heinemann, 2009) by David Moshman.