Particularly in these times, the members of NCTE endorse and work to maintain academic freedom at all levels of public schooling.1
Academic freedom is a public trust earned by way of formal disciplinary training and expertise. It is an individual English educator’s (teacher’s, researcher’s, and librarian’s) right to translate, produce, and curate past and new knowledge and dispositions within broadly accepted disciplinary parameters in order to advance the common good. As a professional organization concerned with English education, NCTE contributes to the articulation of those broad parameters through its position statements, its sponsored programs, and its research, curricular, and pedagogical publications.2
Skilled, academically credentialed English educators earn that trust by striving to prepare all students as literate individuals with requisite dispositions and capacities for open inquiry, critical thinking, and appreciation for diverse thoughts, values, and modes of expression required within a just democracy.3
With trust comes responsibilities expressed below as freedoms to and freedoms from.
Responsibilities of Academic Freedom
English educators must nurture and maintain their knowledge, capacities to explain, and abilities to implement the theories, research, curricula, and pedagogies of the English education field, at least as these topics pertain to academic decisions within their level of practice.4
In their work, English educators must model the desired dispositions and capacities of a literate individual in a just democracy.5
English educators are responsible for the intellectual, emotional, and social development of all students to ensure that each is able to participate as a peer with all others in the production and decisions of democratic social life.6
English educators have the freedom to
- Follow their theoretical, research, and pedagogical commitments in all aspects of their work by situating their choices within the field and discipline.
- Express their views in speech, writing, and digital communication unless those views impair rights of others or demonstrate ignorance of their field of expertise.
- Choose topics and materials for inquiry and draw conclusions consistent with resulting evidence, establishing the relevance of their choices to the field and democratic social life.
- Participate meaningfully as peers in the decisions concerning organizational structures, curricular matters, and pedagogical practices of their work.
- Decide how to enact those decisions within their work, articulating how their choices fit within decision parameters.
- Grieve formally any transgressions of these freedoms before professional peers.
English educators have freedom from harassment, censorship, imposition, and retaliation or sanction from politicians, administrators, corporations, or members of the public for enacting the above freedoms responsibly.
Academic freedom does not prohibit scholarly challenges to English educators’ academic choices or actions; exempt them from school rules or regulations; or protect their incompetence, bigotry, or dereliction of responsibilities.
- NCTE Vision Statement (2017)
- NCTE Resources (2019)
- NCTE Resolution on English Education for Critical Literacy in Politics and Media (2019)
- NCTE Statements on Educators’ Responsibility to Be Knowledgeable
- Understanding the Relationship between Research and Teaching (2005)
- Preparing Teachers with Knowledge of Children’s and Young Adult Literature (2018)
- Resolution on Professional Learning in the Teaching of Writing for Inservice Teachers (2018)
- Guidelines for Preparing Teachers of English in the Two-Year College (2016)
- NCTE Demonstration of Literate Disposition for Students Resolution on Amplifying the Voice of Literacy Teachers (2018)
- NCTE Commitment to All Students’ Literacies
“Academic Freedom.” American Federation of Teachers, www.aft.org/position/academic-freedom. Accessed 9 Sept. 2019.
“Academic Freedom.” American Library Association, April 2017, www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/academicfreedom. Accessed 9 Sept. 2019.
“Academic Freedom and Responsibility Toward Society—Who Decides What Science We Do?” Proceedings of the 12th Forum on the Internationalization of Sciences and Humanities, November 11–12, 2018. Alexander von Humboldt Foundation,
apru.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/2019_04_DUZ_Special_12th_Forum.pdf. Accessed 9 Sept. 2019.
“Academic Freedom of Students and Professors, and Political Discrimination.” American Association of University Professors, www.aaup.org/academic-freedom-students-and-professors-and-political-discrimination. Accessed 9 Sept. 2019.
International Reading Association and NCTE. “Common Ground: Speak with One Voice on Intellectual Freedom and the Defense of It.” Educational Resources Information Center, 2000, files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED452541.pdf. Accessed 9 Sept. 2019.
Nelson, Cary. “Defining Academic Freedom.” Inside Higher Ed, 21 Dec. 2010, www.insidehighered.com/views/2010/12/21/defining-academic-freedom. Accessed 9 Sept. 2019.
Organization of American Historians Committee on Academic Freedom. “Academic Freedom Guidelines and Best Practices.” Organization of American Historians, www.oah.org/about/reports/policies/academic-freedom-guidelines-and-best-practices. Accessed 9 Sept. 2019.
This document was revised by an NCTE working committee comprising the following:
- Abena Hutchful, National Coalition Against Censorship, New York, NY
- Stacey Ross, Casis Elementary, Austin, TX
- Patrick Shannon, chair, Pennsylvania State University, University Park
- Paul Thomas, Furman University, Greenville, SC
The committee wishes to thank Emeritus Professor of English Cary Nelson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, for his scholarly writing about academic freedom.
This position statement may be printed, copied, and disseminated without permission from NCTE.