Most of us are proud to be Americans—and with good reason. Other than the United States of America, no other nation on earth was designed with the primary purpose of promoting and protecting the rights of the individual. In this respect, our republic stands alone.
The Only Government Established to Protect Individual Rights
In all other countries, the collective rights of the nation have been established as primary, and the rights of its individual citizens as secondary. The founding fathers of the United States—revolutionaries to the core—flipped this notion, identifying and implementing the principles that the purpose of government is to secure individual rights and that governments derive their powers from the consent of the governed.
Since the American government was established to secure (not create) individual rights, it follows that these rights existed before governments. Rights are inherent to humans’ rational nature. The most fundamental individual right is the right to life; all other individual rights spring from it.
Secondarily, since the power of governments comes from the consent of the governed, it follows that the governed cannot empower governments with rights that individual citizens themselves do not possess. For example, since no individual has the right to deprive another of his/her personal belief or the freedom to express it, the government does not, either.
Examining Freedom of Speech in America
Our First Amendment right to free speech is clearly stated: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.” Imagine, then, this scenario: A privately funded company posts a controversial position on social media. Some respondents claim to be offended by the expressed opinion, and a heated public discussion ensues. The administrators delete some of the responses. Is this a violation of the right to free speech?
The Constitution protects—from government interference— an individual’s right to believe anything and to freely express those beliefs. In contrast, private entities are free to permit or prohibit speech on their own property and have no moral obligation to allow or promote speech that violates their sincerely held beliefs, motivations, or value systems
For example, because the people have granted limited power to the government, it is constrained from prohibiting demonstrations based solely on the demonstrators’ beliefs. A private publishing company, however, has no such constraint and is free to publish or not publish as it deems appropriate—it has the freedom to decline to publish any content that promotes ideas and beliefs with which it disagrees.
A common misconception about the right to free speech is that it includes freedom from criticism. A derivative effect of this belief prompts some educational entities to create “safe spaces” where certain opinions are suppressed because they make some people feel uncomfortable. Such a policy may be implemented on private property, but not on any property (such as a public school) that receives any taxpayer money. Public funds obtained from taxpayers may not be used to violate freedom of speech—a precious individual right that our government was established to protect.
The right not to be criticized or the right not to be offended does not exist in a moral society. You have the right to say what you want, but other people have the right to dislike and criticize what you say. Again, in America, government may not use the force of law to restrict the expression of your personal beliefs as long as your actions do not violate anyone else’s rights.
Challenger’s Commitment to Individual Rights
Challenger is committed to teaching its students to respect individual rights. This important objective is interwoven into our policies, philosophy, curriculum, and teaching and behavior management methods. We teach students to value their individuality and their inalienable rights. We promote free speech and active debate as we encourage students to think for themselves and come to their own conclusions based on their examination of facts.
Likewise, we recognize that the crucial choice of who will educate your children is always yours. We’re glad you have chosen Challenger as a partner in teaching your children, and we’ll continue to focus on important principles that can positively affect their learning, development, and happiness.
2021 National Blue Ribbon School