To the Editor:
Intrigued with the discipline of analyzing differences as conflicts in values, I recently read Rick Hess’ post “Education Is So Far Left, It Can’t Really See the Right” (Rick Hess Straight Up blog, www.edweek.org, Nov. 17, 2016). I agree with some of Hess’ arguments but disagree deeply with others, particularly the liberty vs. equity tension he describes.
I don’t think many school reformers I have worked with side by side for the last 20 years are dismissive of “liberty,” as Hess suggests is the case. Many of them doubt, however, that liberty—as in freedom—has the same relevance and value for everyone, especially for those with vastly unequal footing. As a businessperson who entered education later in life, I often favor freedom from bureaucracy and frequently find myself coming to the defense of liberty. The longer I work inside public education, though, the clearer I am that liberty is not going to address the dehumanizing challenges facing children and those who have been systematically oppressed.
I agree with Hess that it is uncomfortable to discuss certain politically charged topics, but I find consistently that this is true on both sides of the divide. Making matters worse, people are retreating more and more from respectful dialogue, especially since the recent election.
Like Hess, I am not a fan of grievance-driven politics in general, but I become a dedicated fan when we are talking about grievances on behalf of children or those whom our institutions have oppressed. The right to fight for equity on behalf of individuals whose experience of “liberty” is limited should be a carefully guarded American value.
Founder, Uplift Education
Co-Founder, Teaching Trust
A version of this article appeared in the December 14, 2016 edition of Education Week as ‘Liberty’ Isn’t Oppression’s Antidote