The Emergence of First Amendment Academic Freedom
Nebraska Law Review, Vol. 85, No. 3, 2007
37 Pages Posted: 4 Aug 2008 Last revised: 20 Feb 2012
Date Written: 2007
The idea of a constitutionally protected realm of academic freedom is controversial and judicially unsettled. With their most protective rhetoric, courts have referred to "the robust tradition of academic freedom in our nation's post-secondary schools." The Supreme Court has proclaimed that our Nation is deeply committed to safeguarding academic freedom, which is of transcendent value to all of us and not merely to the teachers concerned. That freedom is therefore a special concern of the First Amendment, which does not tolerate laws that cast a pall of orthodoxy over the classroom. Beyond the strands of supportive rhetoric, however, lies much current controversy and uncertainty. One court has observed that "academic freedom" is a term that is often used, but little explained, by federal courts." Academic freedom is largely unanalyzed, undefined, and unguided by principled application, leading to its inconsistent and skeptical or questioned invocation.
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