John E. Deasy on Liberty

March 2018

A Letter from the Editor-in-Chief

The construct of liberty and the gifts of the freedoms that emanate from it go as far back as the thinking of Aristotle.
John E. Deasy, Editor-in-Chief

Dear Readers,

John Deasy Human civilization had been wrestling with the ideas of liberty and freedom since recorded time. Within this issue of The Line, we use these concepts interchangeably to explore the tensions between the gifts of personal freedom and those of the collective. Nowhere do these pressures appear more starkly than on the doorsteps of schools and the desks of their leaders.

The institution of public schooling is a mirror of society. It should, therefore, be no surprise given the extreme conflicts of societal belief and opinion that we witness these events daily in our schools. This issue models the application of civil discourse as a way toward a “more perfect union.”

The construct of liberty and the gifts of the freedoms that emanate from it go as far back as the thinking of Aristotle. In modern times, the tensions of individual freedom and the freedoms of a collective people in a society have been explored by Isaiah Berlin and Francis Fukuyama and more recently by John McGinnis. We honor these thinkers by applying the discipline of the civil treatment of both tension and difference across the freedoms of speech, assembly, religion and the press within, as Jefferson reminded us, the institution that is most critical to a democratic society: a free education for all.

The public expression of very different views on the rights of individuals to the form of public education and the governance of that public education are rife with tension and rich with learning.

This issue explores these and other subjects from the perspective of learning from others and respectfully understanding difference. We seek to understand the acts of and responses to the Charlottesville, Virginia violence and #TakingAKnee before an athletic competition. We wrestle with the historical meaning of public buildings named for Confederate war heroes and slave owners where youth of every race learn to build a more just and tolerant society.

The Line’s “Civil Discourse in Action” piece features an honest and mature exchange between Ben Austin and Chris Cerf that explores this thought: “We need to work together to open our minds to the possibility that there are many versions of truth and right and light and justice under the general heading of, ‘let’s try to do everything in the best interest of children.’”

In another story that explores the challenges of providing an equitable education for all students within the context of a state takeover practice, Andy Smarick posits: “The error we made in the past was assuming that kids must be served by a traditional district, which we constantly had taken over and tried to make better but didn’t. Now we as the state have to come up with a new way of making sure they’re well served.” Given the lack of liberty of many youth inside a school system where the government decides which liberties exist for some and not for others, let us learn from the discussion of this controversial issue in the very style of civil discourse.

This issue also leans on American athletic hero M. L. Carr who played on an integrated Boston Celtics team during a tumultuous time where the city could not peacefully integrate its schools. The fundamental issue of liberty for all youth was, and still is, in serious question of being fully present. Carr understands that. Rightly so, Ted Mitchell has the “Last Word” in this issue. He suggests that liberty may be best assured when “First, we must recommit ourselves to the idea that K-16 education is a public as well as a private good.”

I hope this issue of The Line reinvigorates your commitment to learning from those with whom we both agree and disagree using the anvil of civil discourse, rather than the hammer of ideology applied to that anvil. I believe it is through this type of civil discourse that we will avoid a second crack in the Liberty Bell and this time one not by accident!

… with liberty and justice for all.

Let us learn together.

John Deasy Signature

John E. Deasy, PH.D.
Editor-in-Chief, The Line

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On Civil Discourse

The Line’s purpose is to offer new ideas and insight and encourage civil discourse on the most significant K-12 issues we face.


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