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NCTE Position Statement

Resolution on Teachers' Right to Teach

1996 NCTE Annual Business Meeting in Chicago, Illinois

Background

This resolution deals with teachers' right to intellectual freedom. Resolutions dating from the 1970s, position statements, and books already exist which define and defend teachers' rights to discuss and decide what to teach:

     Dealing with Censorship (1979) and Preserving Intellectual Freedom (1994), two books on various censorship issues;

     "Statement on Censorship and Professional Guidelines" (1982), a document by the NCTE Board of Directors outlining the distinctions between censorship and professional guidelines for selection of teaching materials;

     "The Students' Right to Read" (1984), NCTE's position statement on intellectual freedom and recommendations for systematic review of complaints about teaching materials;

     "Common Ground" (1992), a statement by the NCTE/IRA Joint Task Force on Intellectual Freedom defending the freedom to teach and learn;

     "Guidelines for Dealing with Censorship of Nonprint Materials" (1993), a document developed by an NCTE task force underscoring teachers' obligation to develop students' ability to think critically about nonprint media and build on students' often sophisticated media literacy skills; and

     "Guidelines for Selection of Materials in English Language Arts Programs," a document that affirms the importance of thoughtful selection of materials by qualified English professionals.

The documents named above clearly affirm the rights of students to read and have access to a variety of books and other media. These documents also defend the rights of teachers as professionals to participate in decisions about what books and other media materials to teach. We have a strong position on the right to read. We now need a strong statement on the right to teach using methods which are accepted by the profession but which may not have local acceptance. No clear statement exists addressing the rights of teachers to use possibly controversial methods or to provide experiences that broaden students' ways of thinking. Be it therefore

Resolution

Resolved, that the National Council of Teachers of English issue a strong statement on teachers' right to teach using methods accepted by the profession;

     that NCTE affirm the right to teach so as to provide educational experiences that promote open inquiry, critical thinking, diversity in thought and expression, and respect for others; and

     that NCTE continue to support the joint committee of SLATE (Support for the Learning and Teaching of English) and the Standing Committee Against Censorship in publishing professional guidelines for teachers' right to teach.

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