Honestly grappling with the past, including the frank and fair study of difficult topics, is at the heart of the historical profession. Academic freedom enables history educators to conduct research, teach students, and produce scholarship related to their areas of expertise without fear of personal attacks or professional threats to their livelihoods and careers.
In recent years, there has been an alarming rise in incidents in which history educators are targeted because their expertise and pedagogies touch on topics that seem to speak to a culture war du jour. These attacks have been directed at historians working at every level of the educational system and in public history contexts. These incidents have sometimes resulted in choreographed media and social media outrages calling for—and occasionally leading to—disciplinary action. When disciplinary action results from targeted harassment of educators it is a fundamental threat to academic freedom, serving to silence substantive historical analysis through intimidation and control.
In order to ensure that history educators are able to work without intimidation or fear of retaliation, their academic freedom must be protected from the following threats:
Targeted online harassment, which identifies specific educators and alleges discrimination on the basis of their teaching and/or academic expertise.
Disciplinary action against history educators on the basis of their curricula, scholarship, or writing.
Educational institutions must resist calls to discipline or fire history teachers in these kinds of controversies. They must uphold the “transcendent value” of academic freedom—including the freedom to say unpopular things—as affirmed by the Supreme Court in Keyishian v. Board of Regents in 1967.