By: Mark Glennon*
Has the cancel culture infected your kids’ school? A parent group may have a partial remedy.
A resolution submitted to the New Trier High School board in north suburban Chicago would, if adopted, assure:
New Trier High School’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the New Trier High School community to be offensive, unwise.
It would guaranty all members of the school community “the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn.”
The resolution apparently would be the first of its kind in the nation at the high school level. It is modeled on The Chicago Statement, which was adopted by the University of Chicago in 2015 in response to the illiberal trend of free speech intolerance on college campuses. The full resolution appears below.
It was drafted by New Trier Neighbors, a parent group that grew out of opposition to what was criticized as one-sided content in the school’s “Seminar Day” in 2017, which a Wall Street Journal article called “Racial Indoctrination Day.”
The seminar received extensive, national media attention because of its exclusive focus on topics like systemic racism, implicit bias and, as the Journal put it, the “divisive view of race as a primordial fact, the essence of identity, a bright line between oppressed and oppressor.”
We wrote about it here at the time. My son attended the school then. I was among the critics who asked for a broader range of viewpoints like those of Robert Woodson, Shelby Steele, Thomas Sowell, John McWhorter and Corey Brooks. The school rejected our requests.
Since then, the school has only broadened what it describes as its “equity initative,” expanding what dissenting parents regard as authoritarian imposition of the far left’s single-minded views on race – as well as other topics. Last year, the school moved to infuse its administration’s views on “equity” into virtually all subject areas including math, science, sports, language and more, which you can see in the memo linked here.
Some right-of-center students have spoken up about having their viewpoints squelched, and even being penalized on grading for their views. My kids reported the same things when there.
New Trier is hardly alone. Similar stories from high schools and even grade schools around the country are now common.
The resolution presents the school with an opportunity to move in a more balanced direction that respects diversity of opinion and returns to a focus on critical thinking skills. New Trier Neighbors drafted the resolution in consultation with the K-12 policy experts at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
No word yet on how or when the school board will act on it.
We often receive emails at Wirepoints from ordinary citizens asking “What can I do? How can I get involved to stop what’s happening?”
This resolution is one answer. Push for a similar one in your school districts.
The cancel culture that now plagues the nation has its roots where it should have no place whatsoever – schools. That’s especially true about the disastrously counterproductive orthodoxy on race. Its easily predictable consequences are now apparent across the nation – more racism and division. Race relations have been set back by fifty years.
For those reasons, what New Trier itself does with the resolution is actually secondary. While we hope it will adopt the resolution, it’s far more important that its introduction set a trend for districts around the nation.
Indoctrination long ago replaced education on most college campuses. Freedom of expression resolutions might help save high schools from the same fate.
Parents, it’s in your hands.
*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.
The New Trier High School Freedom of Expression Resolution, presented to the Board for adoption in its entirety, and based on The Chicago Statement:
Because New Trier High School is committed to free and open inquiry in all matters, it guarantees all members of the New Trier High School community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn. Except insofar as limitations on that freedom are necessary to the functioning of New Trier High School, New Trier High School fully respects and supports the freedom of all members of the New Trier High School community “to discuss any problem that presents itself.”
Of course, the ideas of different members of the New Trier High School community will often and quite naturally conflict. But it is not the proper role of New Trier High School to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even offensive. Although New Trier High School greatly values civility, and although all members of the New Trier High School community share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect, concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of our community.
The freedom to debate and discuss the merits of competing ideas does not, of course, mean that individuals may say whatever they wish, wherever they wish. New Trier High School may restrict expression that violates the law, that falsely defames a specific individual, that constitutes a genuine threat or harassment, that unjustifiably invades substantial privacy or confidentiality interests, or that is otherwise directly incompatible with the functioning of New Trier High School.In addition, New Trier High School may reasonably regulate the time, place, and manner of expression to ensure that it does not disrupt the ordinary activities of New Trier High School. But these are narrow exceptions to the general principle of freedom of expression, and it is vitally important that these exceptions never be used in a manner that is inconsistent with New Trier High School’s commitment to a completely free and open discussion of ideas.
In a word, New Trier High School’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the New Trier High School community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the individual members of the New Trier High School community, not for New Trier High School as an institution, to make those judgments for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose. Indeed, fostering the ability of members of the New Trier High School community to engage in such debate and deliberation in an effective and responsible manner is an essential part of New Trier High School’s educational mission.
As a corollary to New Trier High School’s commitment to protect and promote free expression, members of the New Trier High School community must also act in conformity with the principle of free expression. Although members of the New Trier High School community are free to criticize and contest the views expressed on campus, and to criticize and contest speakers who are invited to express their views on campus, they may not obstruct or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe. To this end, New Trier High School has a solemn responsibility not only to promote a lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation, but also to protect that freedom when others attempt to restrict it.”