We, the undersigned, believe the following two principles to be the foundation of academic freedom: that academics, both inside and outside the classroom, have unrestricted liberty to question and test received wisdom and to put forward controversial and unpopular opinions, whether or not these are deemed offensive, and that academic institutions have no right to curb the exercise of this freedom by members of their staff, or to use it as grounds for disciplinary action or dismissal.
But..what does it actually mean in practice to have unrestricted liberty to question and test received wisdom? If your job is to teach beginning biology or geology or geography or history, do you have unrestricted liberty to question and test received wisdom by teaching stark falsehoods? Do you have unrestricted liberty to spend all your teaching time systematically teaching misinformation? If not, what in the statement makes that clear?
I’m not asking that to be provocative; I really don’t know; I don’t see anything in the statement that would distinguish between controversial opinion on the one hand, and plain charlatanry or even plainer lying or pure error and incompetence on the other. What if someone becomes convinced that Einstein’s wife helped him with his work and teaches her students that (in Women’s Studies or History or Sociology of Science and Knowledge or Broadcast Media)? What are academic institutions supposed to do about falsehood and/or error?