Supporting Freedom of Expression in Schools
To build a national network of teachers and parents who support freedom of thought and expression, so our nation’s K-12 schools produce independent thinkers prepared to address society's complex challenges.
At the Educational Liberty Alliance, we believe that children’s education is the foundation of a healthy society.
Today, that foundation is being undermined by a narrow and exclusionary way of teaching and thinking that is ascendant in many of our schools. It forecloses intellectual inquiry and declares any dissent as illegitimate and immoral. Educational policy and curricula are increasingly being developed through this lens. In addition, teachers are encouraged to advocate favored political causes and to promote student activism in support of those causes while silencing contrary opinions and perspectives. Many teachers, parents, and students fear the undeserved moral condemnation and personal and professional risk in disagreeing with the narratives now dominant in the schools.
This environment is inimical to learning. Students must pursue unfettered inquiry to learn to think for themselves. That is how the mind grows.
For that reason, students need exposure to multiple viewpoints and nuance. And their teachers should encourage this type of environment while refraining from advertising their own beliefs on sensitive issues and unduly influencing young minds.
At the same time, teachers should be comfortable challenging current educational dogma without fearing for their livelihoods.
Finally, parents must be able to express opinions about what schools are teaching without fear of retribution for them or their children.
We promote free and open educational inquiry in K-12 schools to grow independent minds and eliminate anti-intellectual fear and intimidation. The ELA is a forum 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.
ELA is a non-partisan, non-profit organization.
“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
Conferences & Events: An open forum with speakers from different perspectives to tackle controversial issues will allow the best ideas to surface. Further, it will help those who believe in our mission to hone their arguments and to advocate more effectively in favor of freedom of thought and expression in schools. Hearing all sides to attain truth is what we want for our schools, and, therefore, what we intend for the ELA.
Resources: Studies, essays, and curricular materials will make it easier for teachers and parents to prepare and defend their advocacy. Many school systems and non-profits provide ready made, researched materials advancing the dominant narrative. Busy teachers and parents concerned about the K-12 environment lack the time and resources to research and prepare responses. We aim to be a repository they can rely upon for these types of materials.
Networking: Conferences and the ELA’s networking initiatives will help teachers and parents feel less isolated and will give them confidence to advocate for what they think is right in the schools.
Mentorship: Networking opportunities with other open-minded educators provide mentorship opportunities and help with career placement and advancement for those who support our mission.
“The idea that you’d have somebody in government making a decision about what you should think ahead of time … runs contrary to everything we believe about education. That might work in the Soviet Union, but that doesn’t work here. That's not who we are.”
- President Barack Obama
Board of Directors
C. Graham Gerst
Graham is a partner at an international IP-focused law firm. He previously was Senior Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General at the U.S. Justice Department, overseeing a variety of technology related national-security matters and international IP enforcement. He also served as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney. Graham began his career at the University of Chicago Law School, where he was a member of the University of Chicago Law Review. He followed that with a clerkship on the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Fifth Circuit and partnership with Kirkland & Ellis. Graham’s nonprofit experience includes serving on the board the Chicago Foundation for Education for over 20 years, including chairing that board, on the Board of Governors of the 7th Circuit Bar Association, and on the board of Metropolitan Family Services.
Andrew has practiced law in Chicago for over 20 years in the field of tax and estate planning. He is a partner in a boutique law firm with a national and international private client practice. Andrew is a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, and an Academician of The International Academy of Estate and Trust Law. He has held leadership positions in several bar organizations over the years. Andrew served as an adjunct faculty member in Northwestern University School of Law’s Tax L.L.M. program from 2012 - 2018. He earned his law degree from Cornell Law School, where he was a John M. Olin Scholar in Law & Economics and an Articles Editor for the Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy. Since 2005, Andrew has served on the board of a charitable trust, established in 1906, that operates a continuing care retirement community. He currently chairs that board. Andrew recently served a two-year term on the Board of Education for Kenilworth School District No. 38 (K-8), where he chaired the board’s Policy Committee.
Caren earned her Bachelor of Science degree in oceanography at the U.S. Naval Academy (2000), where she was a member of Navy’s women’s lacrosse team. She served as an adjutant in the U.S. Marine Corps and subsequently earned her M.Ed. at the University of Phoenix (2008). Caren is a senior instructor in mathematics department at Culver Academies, where she was the recipient of the Ralph Manuel Award in 2014, the Dicke Chair of Educational Technology in 2018, and was named a Laurisden Fellow from 2014 – 2018. She has served in leadership roles for the Honor Council, professional learning community teams, curriculum teams, and the Brian M. Barefoot Social Entrepreneurship Committee. She served on the Batten Scholarship and Cum Laude committees. From 2018 – 2020, Caren moved to NJ where she served as Dean of Teaching & Learning, chaired the math department, coached girls’ lacrosse and field hockey, and served as a dorm head at Blair Academy.
Matt is a senior finance executive with over 15 years of experience as a corporate restructuring advisor, most recently as a Managing Director with Alvarez & Marsal, and also served as interim CFO of an EdTech company. He has volunteered in education for over 20 years, serving as an SAT tutor for several high schools and mentoring organizations, and helped to launch the Los Angeles chapter of Minds Matter, an intensive academic mentoring organization serving academically ambitious, low-income high school students. He lives in Santa Monica, CA, where he has two children in public school and serves on the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Financial Oversight Committee. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley and a J.D. and M.B.A. from the University of Chicago.
Lucy is a partner at a national law firm, where she advises clients on a range of estate planning and trust-related activity. She earned her J.D. in 2011 from Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, where she was an Associate Editor of the Northwestern University Law Review and the Vice President of the Federalist Society. She holds a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from Duke University. Lucy served as an adjunct faculty member in Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law’s Tax L.L.M. program from 2018 to 2020, and she continues to appear as a guest lecturer there. Her non-profit experience includes having served on the Board of Directors for HealthConnect One, an organization focused on improving pregnancy, birth, and early parenting experiences through community-based programs. Currently, Lucy is a member of the Grants Committee of the Lake County Community Foundation. She and her husband are raising three school-aged children.
Katherine has worked in digital advertising and technology for over 20 years, currently in Global Marketing Solutions at Facebook. Previously, she was Vice President of Advertising Solutions at Yahoo!, Global Partnerships Director at Time Warner, and Director of Business Development at DoubleClick in both New York and Hong Kong. Katherine holds a B.A. from Duke University and an M.B.A. from University of Denver. She serves on the Chicago Advertising Federation and Northwestern Hospital Women's Boards. Her mother was a public elementary school teacher for 30 years, who kindled her passion for learning, critical thinking and free speech.
"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