A narrow and exclusionary way of teaching and thinking is ascendant in many of our K-12 schools. It treats dissent as illegitimate and immoral.
The Educational Liberty Alliance (ELA) believes that students should be taught how to think, not what to think. ELA advocates for students’ exposure to multiple viewpoints and nuance. Teachers should foster this type of education while refraining from advertising their own beliefs on sensitive issues and unduly influencing young minds.
The organization promotes freedom of thought and expression in K-12 schools to grow independent thinkers prepared to address society’s complex problems. The ELA provides opportunities where those who share these same beliefs can meet, collaborate, coordinate, and enjoy open and respectful intellectual discourse on a limitless range of educational topics.
The organization’s free kick-off virtual event and roundtable discussion, “The Impact of ‘Safe Speech’ Codes in K-12 Schools,” will take place on Wednesday, June 2nd from 4-5 p.m. Central Time.
Moderated by Dr. Ilana Redstone, an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the event will feature a conversation between two high school teachers, William Reusch, who is a co-moderator of the Heterodox Academy K-12 education community, and J.D. Uebler, who teaches Humanities and Financial Literacy at Culver Academies.
All the panelists actively strive to promote freedom of thought and expression in their teaching. Redstone encourages students “to think broadly on sensitive and controversial issues by asking questions. Lots and lots of questions. For instance, Is X the only possible explanation for Y? Is there consensus on claim Z? This is an approach that can be used with a wide range of difficult topics.”
Reusch explains that, in his classroom, “we work together to recognize patterns and reveal the best ideas. Genuine curiosity must be rewarded. Bad ideas will be met with grace and intellectual reasoning to be defeated. The freedom to express yourself means that we can find the best ideas to advance as a society and species. Sunlight is the best disinfectant and I believe bad speech is defeated by more and better speech.”
Uebler designs his curricular materials to facilitate viewpoint diversity. “I make every attempt to provide students with a range of resources (ones that I may not have come across had it not been for a different viewpoint that I encountered) that provide information and thinking on the polarity of a given topic. Students are put in positions during discussions and in their writing to lend credence to varying viewpoints before offering an additional point or a contrasting one. Hopefully, these behaviors challenge students to listen and to challenge their own echo chambers.”
By consulting with educators like Uebler, Reusch, and Redstone, ELA will provide resources—curricular materials, studies, and essays—that expose students to multiple viewpoints and nuance.
The organization is busy planning more events and conferences. Specifically, ELA aims to create an open forum where speakers from different perspectives will tackle controversial issues, thereby allowing the best ideas to surface. The Educational Liberty Alliance will also provide networking initiatives to help teachers and parents feel less isolated and give them confidence to advocate for what they think is right in the schools. For teachers, ELA will facilitate special mentorship opportunities with other open-minded educators to help with career placement and advancement for those who support the organization’s mission.