Academic Freedom for Teachers
Teachers play a very important role in the lives of students by training them to develop the basic scholarly skills and principles such as objectivity and empiricism which are very important in preparing them for their future both in terms of career and social lives.
Time has however always been threatening to the society and full of turmoil for teacher education. Each generation that comes is required to be vigilant enough to pursue and attain the freedom that is required to get the society out of these threats which include injustice, inequality and lack of freedom (Baade & Everett, 2004). This is however only possible through education as an empowerment since one of the most important purposes of educating individuals is so that they can develop academic freedom and protect it.
Current proceedings however show that there are external forces that are not academia which threaten the academic freedom of teachers and especially those of primary and secondary schools (Baade & Everett, 2004). It is argued that the root of all freedom is the freedom of mind and that one of expression, implying that denying academic freedom is a violation of democracy.
The field of academic because of its nature in that it is characterized by a lot of research and discoveries which make it have great potential in shaping and controlling how information flows in the society is prone to repression by external forces and specifically the government and politicians.
Scholars who have attempted to teach or express facts and ideas that the external groups such as politicians and the authority find to be inconvenient or threatening to their positions have found themselves losing their jobs, being imprisoned or even being executed especially if the content of their ideas threatens the stability of some political group or even the government. As such, there was need for development of academic freedom for teachers and its protection. This is because freedom is the cornerstone of democracy in the academic world and hence needs to be protected from any interference by the external forces mentioned earlier.
Academic freedom is argued to be the core reason and fundamental objective for education and the most crucial amongst teacher education activities deserving the most protection in a democratic country yet it still is amongst the most vulnerable freedoms especially in the event of stress.
The United States, which is considered to be one of the most democratic countries globally, has not even been able to grant scholars this freedom in full. Academic freedom in the United States, the most democratic nation has limits. The Statement on Academic Freedom and Tenure of 1940 for example warns teachers not to comment on and communicate controversial issues that are not related to the syllabus topic they are teaching (Society for the Advancement of Education, 2003).
The statement further allows them to freely express their opinions in public without having to fear that they will be censored or face disciplinary action from the intuitions they serve, but warns them to explain that they do not speak for their institutions but for themselves. These limits greatly constrain academic freedom for teachers as they are forced to hide knowledge and information from their students for fear of getting in problems with the authority.
Freedom to observe, analyze and criticize is very essential for a democratic culture. For a democracy to be legitimate, it requires its citizens to have knowledge and be enlightened. This is however not possible if the ideas that are supposed to enlighten them are restricted and censored unnecessarily by the very forces that could hamper democracy.
School is the most important avenue for citizens not only to gain but also to share knowledge (Society for the Advancement of Education, 2003). The freedom of to analyze and criticize by the teachers and the students in these learning institutions deserves most protection as the students strive to gain knowledge from their teachers who are wiling to share.
In spite of the fact that academic freedom of teachers is significant to democracy, the American society has not yet come to terms with fully appreciating it and always has it under strain and pressure in an effort to constrain it. Forces which are not academic such as politics, moralists, ethicists, religions, extremists, the economic spectrum force schools to teach what they consider and view to be appropriate.
These groups censor and restrict any teaching, studies and courses they perceive to be controversial. Academic freedom for teachers is most vulnerable to attack in times of stress (Society for the Advancement of Education, 2003). At such times, even people who are known to be most reasonable and thoughtful can get caught up the emotional appeals that call for restriction of academic freedom.
At times when things are calm and the environment is one that is more enlightened and which values democracy, the challenges to this freedom can be discussed and get addressed. The exchange of ideas is hover never free as politics and other forces always interfere and complicate it frustrating academic freedom for teachers (Baade & Everett, 2004).
Having identified the significance of academic freedom, this paper seeks to evaluate and discuss academic freedom for primary and secondary school teachers. It will discuss the arguments for more of this freedom to these teachers and how it affects their role and performance (Society for the Advancement of Education, 2003).
The paper will also discuss how the academic freedom for these teachers is constrained by different forces that are not academia especially politics and the government through its role in the prospectus of national curriculum to balance of procedural systems and quality control such as the National Defense Education Act vs. No Child Left Behind.
The effect of upholding and protecting this freedom will be discussed by evaluating the impact of autonomy in creating programs of study on the scope of learning. The paper will determine if autonomy in programs of study inspires and expand the scope of learning, or if it narrows the scope based on individual biases and creating socioeconomic gaps within the system.