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Essays on freedom of thought and expression

The Educational Liberty Alliance has heard from concerned parents and teachers that they need assistance articulating the ways in which freedom of thought and expression are so important in the educational setting. Taking on the mantle, the Alliance has asked several well-regarded educators to expound on certain philosophical quotes that we have selected and to flesh out their relevance to the learning process, to academic excellence, and to the betterment of society generally. We will post each of the essays as they become available. 

 

Interested parents and teachers can use these essays in any way that they find helpful as they seek to preserve the freedoms that are foundational to an educational environment. For example, a parent running for the school board may rely on the essays for inspiration, parents and teachers may use them to articulate their concerns and enlist their peers to join in the effort, and parents and teachers can use the essays to persuade school board members and administrators to adopt a statement in favor of freedom of thought and to honor it. 

 

We look forward to hearing about the impact that these essays have on discussions about freedom of thought and expression in schools across the country. Please use our contact portal to share your stories with us.

power of one's own thoughts

"Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist. That, of all rights, is the dread of tyrants. It is the right which they first of all strike down. They know its power."

 

-Frederick Douglass

Professor Jonathan Zimmerman, one of the foremost education historians working today, has written an essay about why freedom speech is essential for improving the lives of disadvantaged people.
pursuit of truth 

"The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error."

 

-J. S. Mill, On Liberty

Professor John McGinnis, the George C. Dix Professor in Constitutional Law at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law, has written an essay about why John Stuart Mill’s emphasis on cultivating epistemic openness—a willingness to hear all sides—is an essential skill for teachers to model at all levels of the educational system.

importance of intellectual humility

Importance of intellectual humility 

"There is no greater barrier to understanding than the assumption that the standpoint which we happen to occupy is a universal one."

 

-H. Richard Niebuhr 

Professor John Rose of Duke University has written an essay about the dangers of totalizing theories and the importance of intellectual humility.

"The teacher ought also to be especially on his guard against taking unfair advantage of the students' immaturity by indoctrinating him with the teacher’s own opinions before the student has had an opportunity fairly to examine other opinions upon the matters of question, and before he has sufficient knowledge and ripeness in judgment to be entitled to form any definitive opinion of his own."

 

-American Association of University Professors Declaration of Principles, 1915

opportunity for self-discovery

Professor Erec Smith of York College of York College of Pennsylvania has written an essay about the importance of individuality and self-discovery.