|Posted:||August 1, 2013 10:32 AM|
|From:||Representative Stephen Bloom|
|To:||All House members|
|Academic freedom in the classroom is an essential educational value treasured by generations of teachers, students, and parents in Pennsylvania’s public K-12 schools. Nonetheless, efforts to squelch and stifle free critical inquiry in the classroom have too frequently arisen, often in the context of the teaching and debate of controversial scientific theories and paradigms. The irony in this, of course, is that the very means by which good science advances is through rigorous debate and creative challenges to the status quo. It is the exercise of academic freedom which drives the ongoing scientific process of discrediting and replacing our faulty theories and testing our ever-shifting paradigms.
With free discourse in the classroom under threat, I will soon be introducing a bill to preserve academic freedom in Pennsylvania’s schools. My bill, modeled on legislation recently enacted in other states, would neither conflict with nor duplicate the protections for academic freedom already provided by the Pennsylvania constitution and relevant law, but would instead bolster that freedom. The language was designed to be legally and pedagogically responsible, with the goal of helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the courses being taught.
It should be noted that federal law provides little if any protection for the exercise academic freedom impacting K-12 in-class instructional speech, which is the category of speech my legislation proposes to protect. Control of this category of speech — in-class student and teacher statements, official curricula, textbooks, content standards, etc. – is rightfully and properly left to states and localities. My legislation would ensure that Pennsylvania steps up to protect academic freedom for instructional classroom speech. Our teachers should never need to fear becoming victims of viewpoint-based adverse employment action arising from misplaced restrictions on their freedom to teach.
Please join me in cosponsoring this legislation.