Scholars often debate the history of academic freedom, including efforts across the political spectrum to redefine its policies and practices. One fact that is sometimes overlooked in these debates is that students' educational experiences a re regularly and profoundly affected by how individual professors interpret their freedom to teach, conduct research, disseminate scholarship, speak in public on controversial issues, or criticize institutional policies and practices. Given that college professors use various definitions of academic freedom in their classrooms and that the politics surrounding their actions have become increasingly contentious, it is important to consider academic freedom from the perspective of college teachers in the United States. This essay therefore explores contemporary debates about academic freedom with respect to classroom teaching and student learning. The authors critique neoconservative practices of academic freedom and propose that advocacy—the passionate engagement of ideas leading to a principled stance—is a more pedagogically sound and ethically appropriate approach to engaging students in the classroom.

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