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Academic freedom and teacher choice in curriculum

Updated on April 14, 2015


Does academic freedom exist in our educational system and do teachers have some choice in the curriculum they teach or is it provided for them? Our academic system of education across all specters of educational institutions should have some input from teachers and they should have some choice in conjunction with the principles to be taught. Today if that option still exists it is the exception rather than the rule.

The teaching profession is an honorable one with many individuals who have compassion to educate their students in the subjects they are assigned to teach. The current micromanagement of our educational institutions along with defined content in textbooks over which they have no control limits the opportunities for teachers to manage the content of their classroom. I have written an article before about the micromanagement of our education system but it is much more than that. It is about the opportunities of those individuals instructing students at all levels with methods that make sense not only for today but for the future. Granted there are some teachers or professors who are injecting their perspective in their classroom especially at the college and university level. This is not always bad as it is important to learn the perspectives of others but it should not limit the opportunities for students to disagree with the approach being presented.

Our education system has been recognized at least at the college and university level that the opportunities for a quality education are there. This is exhibited by many individuals from foreign countries making the choice to come here to get a college education. In our elementary and secondary education institutions some things are changing and have changed but in some instances not in a good way. Today there is the philosophy of common core which some states have opted to not utilize and have instituted their own philosophy. Common core is a philosophy established by the Department of Education as a one size fits all concept which never works. Each state and school system have their needs to provide the needs of their student population and they are the ones which should be in control not the federal government.

There is a positive movement in some respects which was initiated by the state department and it began with the state of Arkansas. It is called the Arkansas Declaration of Learning. It is a partnership with the state of Arkansas, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies along with the Arkansas Department of Education. The objective of the program is to help teachers develop new tools that will inspire student learning. Any program that has an objective to inspire student learning is admirable. The only problem with the program is the limited focus though it is a beginning. Objects selected for the program will be used to tell national and state-based stories that vibrantly illustrate the many ways our nation valued stewardship and civic engagement during our country’s formative years, and the importance of this continued focus today. Again this should be under the control and management of the education department not the state department. Education is not a mission of the state department.

The program is oven to Arkansas teachers and school librarians from across the state involved in teach 7th-12th grade students in the fields of art, English language arts and social studies. Any opportunities that involve inspiring student learning should be promoted rather than restricted. The current process of our education system needs to be revamped to give more control back to states and the teachers but with certain guidelines. Teachers should be able to use any process that works for their respective students not processes that restrict innovative techniques. We as a country must realize the importance of our education system and the first place that needs to realize this fact is the federal government. The overreach culture of the federal government now in place is negatively impacting the success of schools everywhere.

Determining what represents a successful school system should not depend on criteria established by the federal government as each school system has different needs. Academic freedom and teacher choice should allow schools to adjust their curriculum to meet the needs of their communities and states. In addition schools need to prepare students with the right education to meet the job market needs today and into the future.

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