Under the Statement issued by American Association of University Professors in 1940, teachers are free to express their personal opinion in public, however, they need to avoid controversial issues. Academic freedom for teachers prohibits censorship or prosecution of debates which reflect the pedagogical philosophy and intellectual commitments of teachers even if they do not coincide with the opinion of the higher academic management or governmental officials.
The problem of academic freedom existed a long time ago but it appeared especially critical in the totalitarian states of the twentieth century. In the Soviet Union, scientific research was controlled by state officials in 1930s. Science could not possibly develop under the censorship of the government which turned into misuse of scientific findings and poor scientific awareness within the society.
In the US, the right to academic freedom is derived from the right on free speech secured by the First Amendment. In the first place, it refers to professors as well as institutions. American universities are free to appoint teachers and make up curricula on their own. Teachers, in their turn, cannot be prosecuted for the ideas which do not impair the rights of other people. Academic freedom, however, does not protect incompetent professors from being dismissed by the university.
Talking about students, academic freedom ensures their right to disagree with the teacher’s or public opinion and avoiding sanctions for expressing their own point of view unless it is dishonest with regard to the discipline or discriminating other people. Students are not obliged to share political, religious, or philosophical beliefs of the management or officials. Besides, academic freedom promises that teachers cannot lower student’s grades or expel them for disagreement on the three issues mentioned above.