Discuss academic freedom as a limiting concept. Be sure to answer this prompt from your professional perspective.
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While reading academic freedom data this week, the topic cannot be discussed without the controversial social, economic, or political quandaries without officials’ interference. Still, academic freedom has limits as teachers engage in knowledge production, classroom approaches, curriculum materials, research findings, and presentation of some aspects under copyrights (Essex, 2016, p. 207). Nonetheless, academic freedom is always being threatened by interests outside of the institution. Notwithstanding, educators embrace the protections that are afforded to them through academic freedom. However, educators must avoid controversial topics unrelated to the content area or the subject we teach. For example, when a teacher speaks or writes in a public forum, they can express opinions without fear of censorship, once signifying the institution representing. Educators impact many lives throughout their careers, and that is limitless. Still, several of my colleagues are indecisive about the constraints of academic freedom. According to Essex (2016), public school teachers are afforded a judicially recognized academic interest in their classrooms, based on the teacher’s right to teach and the students’ right to learn. Regrettably, government school educators do not have similar academic freedom as those in higher education. It may be best to stay within the subject parameters, especially when the educator is not familiar with a students’ background to handle arguments. If one has to venture on controversial topics, get the administration’s approval and ensure it is written. Too often, educators are disciplined for not following the guidelines. As potential administrators, academic freedom is a critical underpinning of multiversity research and teaching. Let us never disregard that with rights come responsibilities. However, academic freedom is significant to the larger region because it guarantees that academics in all areas of expertise are expected to challenge what we think we know and push the boundaries of what is known.
Essex, N. (2016). School law and the public schools: A practical guide for educational leaders (6th ed.). Hoboken, NH: Pearson Publishing.
Academic freedom is not boundless. While it is similar to the freedom of speech that everyone has a right to, academic freedom is more narrow and specific to educational professionals who research, discover, and obtain knowledge and ideas (Downs, 2009). In protecting teachers, students, and schools from unreasonable interference from government or political input, “it seeks to promote the free exchange of ideas, scholarly debates, and the search for knowledge” (Kraft, Vile, & Hudson Jr., 2017). It seeks to protect teachers and students in expressing their ideas with “intellectual honesty” and without fear of retribution (Downs, 2009). Academic freedom is limited in that it originates as professional concept, and as a First Amendment right it is also limited to public or state institutions, as private institutions may have more stringent guidelines that limit academic freedom.
While academic freedom is generally thought of in the context of higher education, it also applies to the K-12, but with slightly more limitations, at least for teachers. According to Essex (2016), there are several limiting factors for teachers in the K-12 setting. First, K-12 teachers need to ensure their speech or expression fits the grade level, age, readiness of or experience of students when discussing content. Second, teachers must keep the content of discussion relevant to the subject they are certified and employed to teach. Third, teachers are not allowed to use their own classroom as a forum to promote their own personal agendas or political agendas, nor are they protected if they make inappropriate or damaging statements. Finally, teachers are not protected by academic freedom if they depart from a school’s mission and vision, or expectations, nor can they remove required curriculum content. Essex (2016) goes on to mention specific examples of teacher behavior that would not be protected, including publicly demeaning students, neglecting professional duties, or slandering superiors.
As a professional educator, academic freedom does not give me carte blanche to say whatever I think, believe, or feel. Academic freedom works as it does when educators “abide by basic standards of intellectual integrity” (Downs, 2009, p. 17). It works on the premise of honesty and the belief that educational institutions should be a “marketplace of ideas” where teachers, students, have the freedom to seek out knowledge and ideas without the interference of outside forces controlling that knowledge (Essex, 2016, p. 207).
Downs, D.A. (2009). Academic freedom: What it is, what it isn’t, and how to tell the difference. Pope Center Series on Higher Education. Retrieved February 22, 2021 from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED535445.pdf
Essex, N.L (2016). School law and the public schools (6th ed.). Pearson Education, Inc.
Kraft, E.S., Vile, J.R., & Hudson Jr., D.L. (2017). Academic freedom. The First Amendment Encyclopedia. Retrieved February 22, 2021 from https://www.mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/17/academic-freedom
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