FAIR Weekly Roundup
Frederick Douglas didn’t hate America, and neither should you.
For our Substack, FAIR Director of Editorial Angel Eduardo writes about Frederick Douglas’ oft-mischaracterized message in his famous speech, “What, to a slave, is the Fourth of July?” While acknowledging the importance of Douglas’ critique of America’s founding hypocrisy—preaching the equality of all men and enslaving African Americans—Eduardo highlights how Douglas was actually quite optimistic about our country’s future.
Douglass recognized America as an ideal. He saw in those founding documents not just hypocrisy, but also a boundless and unfulfilled potential. In what he called the Declaration’s “saving principles,” he saw a hope he considered “much needed, under the dark clouds which lower above the horizon.” Douglass spoke to his audience of their America, and the ways in which it failed to be his America. He bravely and rightfully held a mirror up to our country, and demanded that it work to live up to its promise, because he wanted that promise to be fulfilled.
Independent schools have a governance problem
Also on our Substack, Beka Sinclair lays out some compelling recommendations for how independent schools can improve their governance structure to restore trust between parents and school leadership.
Only with improved governance structures can these elite institutions educate the next generation of students in an ethical manner. Boards of trustees should build governance systems that expand their oversight to include all areas of school operations. This will create a check on the power of administrators, making it more difficult for them to implement ideologically extreme curricula without broad institutional support and transparency. Rebuilding institutional trust from the top down will not only improve independent school culture, it will enable school administrators to spend more time where it is needed most—on our students!
Our Universities Need a Revolution
For Unherd, FAIR Advisor Ayaan Hirsi Ali recounts her recent teaching experience at the University of Austin—a new, “free-thinking, free-speaking alternative to existing universities.” She writes about how this experience reaffirmed her belief that traditional universities have lost sight of their true purpose.
It was clear from my conversations with the students at UATX that the elite educational institutions are doing the next generation a fundamental disservice. If we are to teach the leaders of tomorrow how to think — how to ask probing questions rather than repeat dictated answers — we need a fundamental re-evaluation of the modern university. It’s clear these institutions are still in high demand — just look at Harvard’s ever-increasing application numbers — but that doesn’t mean they are fulfilling their function.
Build a Charter School, Get Sued by the Teacher’s Union
For the Wall Street Journal, Tunku Varadarajan writes about a lawsuit to shut down Vertex Academies, a new charter high school in the Bronx co-founded by FAIR Advisor Ian Rowe. Rowe touts the potential of charter schools to provide a first-rate education to underprivileged kids who need it most, while also acknowledging some of the arguable downsides that can come with them, such as the displacement of successful religious private schools.
Yet he and Ms. Mangual take heart from the parents who have flocked to Vertex in search of “salvation” for their children. Many of them are first-generation immigrants, such as the Hispanic gardener at the school’s playground who doesn’t speak a word of English. He brought his eighth-grade daughter to Ms. Mangual and pleaded for her to be admitted to Vertex. The girl had to fill out all the forms, much as Ms. Mangual did for her own father when he was applying for jobs 20 years ago. These immigrants have “come to the United States,” Mr. Rowe says. “Even if they’re living 10 to a family, by hook or by crook, their kids are going to do well.” Assuming the teachers unions don’t get in their way.
The five minutes that defined my life’s work
For his new Substack, The International Correspondent, Faisal Saeed Al Mutar writes about his experience growing up as a freethinker in Iraq, and the attempted kidnapping that made him realize how dangerous—and important—standing up for critical thinking and freedom truly is.
Today, he and FAIR Perspectives host Melissa Chen lead Ideas Beyond Borders, an organization dedicated to promoting freedom of thought in countries where it is often repressed.
As we continue to grow, I often think about my peers who joined Al Qaeda. How maybe, just maybe, if they had access to better information and had better environments, they would perhaps have made a different decision. I will never know the answer to that question, but I believe that as Ideas Beyond Borders continues to grow and more people are given the choice to think for themselves that there will continue to be less and less extremism in the region. Even one less child who falls victim to these hateful groups is a success, and it is the honor of my life to fight for these values.
I spoke up against racism in Virginia and was attacked by “anti-racists”
For the Washington Post, Melissa Riley writes about her lawsuit against Albemarle County Public Schools for implementing race-essentialist lessons from the group Courageous Conversations. Riley was driven to file her lawsuit when she heard that her son—who is part white, part black, and part Native American—was offered a “safe space” in another room while the rest of his (predominantly white) classmates continued with the lessons.
School is hard enough without being told by teachers you trust that your race will determine your outcome in life. I want my son and every other kid in his class to know that, if they put in the work, their skin color isn’t going to hold them back. I want them to know that they can trust each other and work together, even if they look different. These are messages I believe every kid needs to hear to thrive in America today.
Have we reached peak woke?
For City Journal, Oliver Traldi paints an optimistic picture of how the intolerant ideology that has permeated many of our institutions and our culture may be nearing a decline in influence. Traldi points to signs such as the increasing popularity of independent-minded writers on Substack, as well as the “exhaustion with [wokeness’] mandates within its ostensible political home, progressive activism.”
However, while he does see reason for optimism, Traldi notes the crucial difference between what people believe today—where this ideology’s popularity is plateauing—and what is instilled in policy, which is often derived from beliefs that were previously more widespread.
Wokeness presented itself as revolutionary, but usually it was tedious, bureaucratic, punitive, and obtuse. Those very features will make it hard to dislodge institutionally, even as awareness of them becomes widespread. So while we may have hit peak woke in terms of what people actually believe, the mindset will live on for some time to come—as policy.