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Defense of Academic Freedom Award

National Council for the Social Studies honors annually the outstanding performance of teachers, researchers, and other worthy individuals and programs, and has encouraged unique and innovative social studies education projects through its award and grant programs. NCSS serves as an umbrella organization for elementary, secondary, and college teachers of social studies; teacher educators; researchers; curriculum designers; and curriculum specialists.

Sponsored by:

  • National Council for the Social Studies


  • Annual


  • $1,500
  • Commemorative gift
  • Annual Conference session presentation
  • Publicity

In social studies, which NCSS defines as "the integrated study of the social sciences and humanities to promote civic competence," controversial issues must be studied in the classroom without the assumption that they are settled in advance or that there is only one "right" answer in matters of the dispute. The social studies teacher is obligated to approach such issues in a spirit of critical inquiry rather than advocacy. The central issue in considering a teacher's fitness is the quality of his/her performance in the classroom and his/her relationship with students. A teacher's personal, political, social, and economic beliefs should not be criteria for evaluating professional competence.
A teacher's freedom to teach involves both the right and the responsibility to use the highest intellectual standards in studying, investigating, presenting, interpreting, and discussing facts and ideas relevant to his/her field of professional competence. This freedom implies no limitations other than those imposed by generally accepted standards of scholarship. As a professional, the teacher strives to maintain a spirit of free inquiry, open-mindedness, and impartiality in the classroom.

The democratic way of life depends for its very existence upon the free contest and examination of ideas. Especially as they apply to pre-collegiate public education, decisions made by courts, state legislatures, boards of education, and school administrators have sometimes shown disregards for the teacher's professional role in dealing with controversy in the classroom.

The NCSS Defense of Academic Freedom Award is given annually to recognize and honor those who have distinguished themselves in defending the principles of academic freedom in specific controversies, in fostering academic freedom through advocacy, and in defending or advocating the freedom to teach and learn.


  • Classroom teachers, professionals in other areas of education, students, parents, community groups, and members of other organizations. (Preference will be given to social studies educators).
  • Must be or have been engaged in activities that support academic freedom in the face of personal challenge or promote awareness of and support for academic freedom.
  • The defense or advocacy of academic freedom must have been related to the teaching of social studies.
  • Personal involvement in a particular controversy: the use of controversial issues or materials; defense of the presentation of divergent materials and views; and/or the preparation of materials involving controversy and divergent views.
  • Personal involvement in activities that highlight issues surrounding censorship and academic freedom through writings, speeches, or other advocacy.
  • The activities of the person considered for the award must be verifiable and must accompany the nomination.

Nomination Requirements:

  • See Attachment Below
  • Letter of Nomination. Nominations may come from classroom teachers, supervisors, principals, state council members, university officials, parents, and community groups.
  • General background information on the incident that places the incident, the challenge to academic freedom, in context, or a general discussion of the personal courage that has been displayed by the nominee that distinguishes him or her as an advocate of academic freedom (not to exceed three one-sided typed pages).
  • Current employment status of the nominee; current position of the nominee; name and address of current employer of the nominee.
  • Support Letters. No less than 5 and not more than 10 letters supporting the nomination. Letters must come from individuals familiar with the activities asserted in nomination documentation.
  • Supporting documentation. (articles, writings, lesson plans, etc.) not to exceed 10 one-sided pages.
  • Controversy related to Academic Freedom. If nominee has been directly involved in a controversy related to academic freedom and the teaching of social studies, the nominator must answer each of the following itemized questions:
    1. when and where (city, state, school, school district) did the incident take place;
    2. what issue sparked the controversy; did the nominee act alone or as part of a group, what was his/her role;
    3. what is the nature of the nominee's involvement (e.g., part of regular job, in addition to job, etc.)? Explain whether the incident and the subsequent defense were part of a larger organized effort;
    4. How was the controversy resolved and/or what is its current status?
  • Advocacy contributing to Academic Freedom. If nominee has been engaged in advocacy that has contributed to academic freedom, the nominator must prepare a concise narrative that describes as completely as possible the academic freedom and social studies teaching related commitments, efforts of the nominee and any resulting changes as they relate to academic freedom and the teaching of social studies.
  • Publicity Outreach. Please provide the name, contact name, title, and e-mail for:
    • Major local/community newspaper (up to 2)
    • District Superintendent
    • Direct supervisor
  • Information Release Statement (on cover page)

Submission Requirements:

  • Submit all nomination materials to (Submit all required documents by 11:59 p.m. EST on the deadline date of the award in order to receive consideration)
  • Nomination materials must be in a single PDF (scanned) document with 400dpi
  • Include subject headers for each nomination requirement
  • No mail in copies will be allowed


For more information on NCSS Awards and Grants, contact Prema Cordeiro, NCSS Program Manager at or 301-588-1800, ext. 106

DEADLINE BY: March 21, 2011 at 11:59p.m. EST

Send to:
Defense of Academic Freedom Award Committee

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