Savoring the Blessings of Liberty

Savoring the Blessings of Liberty



view:  full / summary

Free Speech Crisis is a Failure of K-12 Education

Posted by Whitney Neal on December 4, 2015 at 8:10 PM Comments comments (0)

At universities across the country, including Yale, Purdue, Missouri, Princeton, and Georgetown, students have protested environments they find hostile and supportive of racial discrimination. In several of these cases, students have called for limits on free speech and the press in the midst of their protests, shocking pundits, parents, and others nationwide with their lack of understanding and respect for our fundamental First Amendment rights.

These actions, however, are supported by the results of a recent PEW research poll, which found that 40% of millennials support government limits on free speech when it pertains to offensive statements about minority groups, a significant increase from their counterparts in previous generations.

Why are millennials so affable to government limits on free speech?

Why do they lack a basic zeal for protecting our fundamental rights?

Our education system has failed them from the earliest moments of their classroom experience. These issues weren’t simply incubated on college campuses by progressive professors in recent years. As civics and history education is minimized as an afterthought in our K-12 schools in place of a hyper-focus on math and language arts, deep-dives into the important themes and events in human history have been replaced by an Olympic sprint through hundreds of years of valuable content with a test as the finish line. Memorizing dates, names, and places in order to pass these tests have eclipsed valuable time spent evaluating the basic ideas of freedom. Students see our Founding documents not as beacons of opportunity but boring textbook addendums they read and forget, moving on to the next required standard or course.

Recently, several states have passed or are seeking well-meaning measures to implement a "citizenship test" as part of high school graduation requirements in the hopes of improving civic knowledge and engagement. As we can see by the results of the PEW survey and the rhetoric stemming from current student protests, students just aren’t receiving enough in-depth civic education. In the current environment of test-based accountability, students are over tested and under-achieving and another test isn’t the answer. Students must engage with content – tangibly – in their daily lives to gain a true appreciation that will last with them into adulthood.

Rather than read the Constitution, they should evaluate it. Students should experiment with determining the Constitutionality of legislation that impacts their state, community, or individual lives. They should act out the legislative process. They should know how they interact with government on a daily basis and what those interactions mean for their individual freedoms.

Can today’s high school students share examples of civil disobedience in context with an understanding of what it meant to stage a sit-in, to protest for basic civil rights, and where the right to do so came from? Do they know why colonists came to the New World and how each colony was formed with an individual purpose and identity with economies shaped by geography? Can they provide a modern day comparison with what Dr. King wrote in his Letter from Birmingham Jail? Do they understand why Thomas Paine wrote Common Sense on the eve of the American Revolution? Do they grasp the Fourth Amendment and why they should be acutely aware of its’ protections as they enter adulthood?

Or, are these simply words, titles, and people on a test, to be memorized and forgotten rather than applied to events in modern life? Until students are presented with opportunities to directly engage with the Constitution in a relevant and meaningful way deeply connected to their daily lives, to contemplate the consequences of government actions in comparison to the past, they will continue to believe the purpose of government is to create safe spaces from the realities of the world and jobs they can simply walk into post-graduation. It’s time for parents to step up at the dinner table and have these conversations.

It’s time for all of us – parents, teachers, students, and local leaders to engage our schools with these ideas, to step up, and to bring civics back to the front of our educational conversation. If we don’t, our individual freedoms, the free market, and the free world will continue to face the consequences.

Has Standardized Testing Gone Too Far?

Posted by Whitney Neal on November 1, 2015 at 10:55 AM Comments comments (0)

You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.

Igniting a passion for liberty through classroom engagement

Posted by Whitney Neal on September 8, 2015 at 11:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Originally posted at the Washington Examiner.


While initially penned on parchment paper, the Constitution transcends time and technology to remain one of the most influential and inspirational documents in the history of the world. Issues debated in Philadelphia by the Founders are still argued in the halls of Congress with a vigor and passion that rivals that of Madison and Jefferson. The Constitution is more than a word tossed around during debates or campaign speeches—it is the foundation of our republic and the fabric with which our story has been written.


Our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, so eloquently detailed in the Declaration of Independence, are protected by the very structure of the Constitution. To its core, the Constitution was written to ensure that individual liberty trumps that of government in every way possible.


In fact, it was crafted with the full knowledge that unless our citizens know—and value—these rights, government could take them away. Protections such as checks and balances, separation of powers, and the Bill of Rights, were put in place as a beacon of acknowledgement that individual liberty is the building block of a free society.


To maintain our liberty, it is imperative that with each passing generation our classrooms are invigorated with the constitutional principles that guide this great nation. With students that aren’t just reading about the Constitution, but are actively engaging with it, applying it to issues that directly affect their lives and communities. Students need to know that we interact with it every day, from a visit to church on Sunday, to an interaction with a police officer, to reading the news, to posting a message on social media, to simply talking on the phone.


However, recent studies have shown that our students lack that basic understanding of American History and civics. The 2014 Nation’s Report Card4 provides an alarming view of just how disengaged eighth-graders are with fundamental building blocks of our great nation. A mere 18 percent attained proficiency in U.S. History and 24 percent in civics.


While the Founders intended government to protect our rights, of these very same eighth grade students, fifty-one percent believe the purpose of government is to guarantee everyone a job.


What is the catalyst for this lack of knowledge and engagement? A lack of emphasis in the classroom on more than just memorizing abstract facts. To solve this problem, we must begin with hands-on application of the Constitution.


We have, within our grasp, solutions to this crisis. This Constitution Day, the Bill of Rights Institute is once again providing educators with engaging primary source-based lessons, discussions, and activities to use in the classroom. Designed to draw connections between complex topics facing society, such as racial tensions in Ferguson or debates over immigration reform, religious liberty, and free speech, and the Constitution, these resources are free of charge and open to parents, students, teachers, administrators, and any individual that seeks to improve their civic knowledge.


The Constitution is a beautiful beacon of what is possible when power is derived from the people—and the people recognize that governments’ purpose is to protect our individual rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.



Social Media Monitoring at School - Too Far?

Posted by Whitney Neal on September 5, 2015 at 11:10 AM Comments comments (0)

You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.

Everyone Wins with Carly In at the next Debate

Posted by Whitney Neal on September 3, 2015 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Originally Posted at Rare.com

The long road to the GOP nomination got a bit more interesting when Carly Fiorina earned a spot on the main stage of this month’s upcoming CNN debate.


Following an exceptional performance in the undercard Fox News debate, Fiorina has experienced a substantial surge in the polls. Ranked in the top 10 in 12 state-based polls (and in the top three in the latest poll out of Iowa), Fiorina has seen her favorability increase by double digits over the last two weeks.


Her participation is a win-win for everyone – from CNN to the GOP to the primary voter. Not only does CNN get to promote her involvement and benefit from a potential ratings boost (because who isn’t interested in watching Fiorina and Trump go toe-to-toe on the same stage?), but the GOP now boasts a legitimate candidate who can combat the war on women narrative in primetime.


Fiorina’s rapid rise has little to do with her gender, however, and everything to do with her ability to clearly articulate where she stands on key issues from foreign policy to Planned Parenthood, and do so on any platform from the debate stage to left-leaning media like The View. She even outpaced Trump as the most searched candidate on Google following the August debate, a clear sign that voters are interested in what she has to say.


Unfazed by tough questions, Fiorina has outshone her counterparts when it comes to attacking Hillary Clinton. From day one, she set her sights directly on Clinton, challenging her on everything from Benghazi to email-gate. Chris Matthews was left at a loss for words after he questioned her for calling Clinton a liar, a feat many of her rivals have yet to accomplish:




Fiorina is a refreshing contrast to the vague, rhetoric-filled, policy-deficient Trump campaign. Her website contains the most comprehensive answers section of any candidate in the field, allowing users to ask a question and receive an answer from of hundreds of videos.


Most importantly, Fiorina enriches the debate experience by increasing its diversity of voice, perspective, and life experience. Agree with her or not, she earned her spot on the main stage and the GOP is better for it.



Read more at http://rare.us/story/everyone-wins-with-carly-fiorina-at-the-next-debate/#cfDOIiRw5ZkMzYIf.99

Teacher Evaluations: Public or Private?

Posted by Whitney Neal on March 23, 2015 at 10:20 AM Comments comments (0)

You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.

Banning Homework? Bad Idea.

Posted by Whitney Neal on March 8, 2015 at 4:55 PM Comments comments (0)

You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.

Civic Engagement vs. Civics Testing: What Works?

Posted by Whitney Neal on February 14, 2015 at 7:50 PM Comments comments (0)

You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.

Banning Failure: Failing Our Kids

Posted by Whitney Neal on January 28, 2015 at 7:55 AM Comments comments (0)

You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.

Should Taking Your Kids on Vacation be a Crime?

Posted by Whitney Neal on January 20, 2015 at 10:25 AM Comments comments (0)

You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.