By Joe Setyon

November 6, 2021

Freedom works. That simple yet lofty principle this nation was founded on has lifted millions out of poverty and provided choices for Americans in all facets of life. But freedom forgotten is no freedom at all, and if we are to maintain our liberty and strive for more of it, we must never forget where we came from and how we got here.

In short, we must not take out freedoms for granted. This was a prominent theme at the Goldwater Institute’s Annual Dinner on Friday in Scottsdale, Arizona, where a room full of friends and supporters of our mission celebrated what the Institute has accomplished in the past year and looked forward to what we can achieve in the next one.

Driving this theme home was the event’s keynote speaker, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a strong supporter of school choice and parents’ rights, among other pro-liberty policies. Even as governors of other large states kept their citizens under lockdown for months on end amid the COVID-19 pandemic, DeSantis opened up Florida for business and pledged in August 2020 there would be no more lockdowns. DeSantis has also refused to impose mask mandates on Floridians, and while he has strongly encouraged citizens to get vaccinated, he’s made it clear that he won’t force them to do so.

DeSantis is also a vocal critic of Critical Race Theory (CRT), which rejects the ideals on which our freedoms are based in exchange for a culture of fear that tries to explain everything in terms of racial identity and is obsessed with victimization.

Rather than take a nuanced perspective that celebrates America’s founders for championing the ideals of liberty and equality under the law—while recognizing that they themselves did not always live up to those ideals—adherents of CRT want to erase our history and destroy the monuments commemorating the founders’ achievements.

CRT was a topic addressed by nationally syndicated radio host Kevin Jackson, a featured speaker at Goldwater’s Annual Dinner who spoke about how the ideology is a betrayal of the civil rights movement. And this destructive worldview is infiltrating our schools.

It’s no wonder so many parents are furious over what Goldwater Institute President and CEO Victor Riches called “a Marxist fantasy that’s being rejected by parents across the country,” all while “education unions and school boards continue to embrace it, even as they deny it’s being taught.”

In a saga that’s playing out in school board meetings across the country, CRT has become a lightning rod for controversy, as parents—concerned that their children are being politically indoctrinated by CRT and other destructive ideologies—demand to know what, exactly, is being taught in the classroom.

“Instead of teaching kids to live up to the American Dream, school officials are teaching them that the Dream is a lie, and that this nation is fundamentally based on slavery, racism, and hate,” Goldwater Institute Executive Vice President Christina Sandefur said Friday. “Instead of judging kids based on the content of their character, the education bureaucrats are demanding that children be judged by the color of their skin. Instead of teaching them to respect the differences of opinion among people, public school activists are harassing, intimidating, and cancelling anyone who dissents from this new political correctness.”

Rhode Island mom Nicole Solas found this out the hard way. When Solas emailed the principal of her daughter’s public school earlier this year, asking for the kindergarten curriculum, she was stonewalled. Then, she got hit with a bill from the school district for $74,000. Solas, who the Goldwater Institute is defending in court, was even sued by the National Education Association, the nation’s largest public sector teachers union, all because she thought she had a right to know what her daughter would be taught about America.

“Parents have enough on their hands raising their children—it’s a full-time job,” said Sandefur. “They shouldn’t have to fight self-righteous administrators and scheming special interests just to find out what their kids are being taught in classrooms that their tax dollars pay for.”

It would have been easy for Solas to give up. But she didn’t.

“Nicole won’t be bullied, intimidated, or silenced. She’s still fighting for her daughter—and for all our children,” Sandefur said. “And she’s showing parents across the country that they’re not alone.

Solas, this year’s recipient of the Goldwater Institute Freedom Award, offered a roadmap for all Americans interested in battling the growing wokeness in our schools. “You will be retaliated against,” she said, adding, “Embrace dissent.”

Parents like Nicole deserve to know what their children are learning in taxpayer -funded schools. That’s why the Goldwater Institute continues to advocate for the Academic Transparency Act, which would require public schools to post their learning materials online. Armed with more knowledge, parents could choose for themselves where their children should be educated.

So much of what the Goldwater Institute fights for is meant to protect people’s freedom to choose: a parent’s freedom to choose what school—and even what educational style—works best for their child; a property owner’s freedom to choose what they will and will not do on their own land; a law-abiding citizen’s freedom to choose to defend himself or herself by purchasing a firearm.

We know there are many who, given the opportunity, would take away the freedoms we dear. “Today the forces of collectivism and statism are tearing at the fabric of the very idea of America,” Goldwater Institute Director of National Litigation Jon Riches said at Friday’s Annual Dinner. “The statist tyrants of today believe in everything that is antithetical to America, and to freedom.”

But we won’t let that stop us from fighting for freedom, because we know that freedom works.

“We will never back down in the fight against government tyranny,” Victor Riches said. “After all, this remains the greatest country in the history of mankind and we have an obligation to defend it—and that’s an obligation we take to heart every single day.

Goldwater will never stop advocating for choice, so that people can live freer, happier lives.

Joe Setyon is a Digital Communications Associate at the Goldwater Institute.

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