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Why Does Academic Freedom Matter?

If you don’t teach in a college or university, you may have never heard the term academic freedom. Here’s why it’s important: those who have it are better teachers.

In 2014 the MLA published its updated defense of academic freedom. It reaffirmed the principles of the “1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure,” issued by the American Association of University Professors and the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and argued that “[w]hen academic freedom is curtailed, higher education is compromised.”

Academic freedom faces threats from many sources, including an increase in the number of teachers that lack tenure protection, faculty members’ shrinking role in institutional governance, and pressure from legislators. The threats may change, but the need to defend academic freedom does not. The MLA’s 2009 statement therefore calls on administrators, faculty members, and accrediting bodies to work to support academic freedom on all campuses and “for all teachers, regardless of rank and status.”

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