2020 was, for some, a year to remember, and for others, a year to forget. But I would introduce a third option: 2020 was a year to remember what we’ve forgotten.
A silver lining to COVID shutdowns is that it forced families to be more present with each other and thus more involved in each other’s lives. This resulted in parents getting a much closer view of what their children were being taught in school.
Now, in 2021, parents’ disturbance with their children’s education is on full display — and rightfully so. Many in our country are concerned that Critical Race Theory is being pushed in schools, that gender identity policies are being adopted nationwide, and that school board officials are trying to silence those who dare to voice opinions about these radical policies at school board meetings.
Yes, this indoctrination is dangerous and even fatal to our nation. But, what about the topics that students aren’t hearing about in schools? What about the views that are being silenced and sidelined before they even reach the ears of students? This is an equally grievous concern, but one that is getting much less attention.
As a college student, I experienced this firsthand. I attended Miami University in Ohio where I was president of the Students for Life chapter on its Hamilton campus.
Every year we hosted the “Cemetery of Innocents” display — a collection of several hundred crosses commemorating lives lost to abortion. The powerful display prompted many conversations with my peers about the issue of abortion. I spoke with one friend who was a devout Muslim and unsure on how he felt about abortion. After some discussion and research, he became 100 percent pro-life, and I later saw him defend the unborn to our professor during class. And I also heard of a pregnant student considering abortion who saw our display of crosses on campus and ultimately chose life for her child. These stories are why we do what we do.
However, these conversations were put to an abrupt halt when the administration said I could only display the crosses if I posted “trigger warning” signs all around campus. I was told that the display was polarizing and offensive to the campus community, and when we refused to tell people to avoid a display we wanted them to see, they shut down our display.
Fortunately, with the help of Alliance Defending Freedom, I sued the university for violating my First Amendment rights and won the case — resulting in university-wide policy changes that now respect freedom of speech. Our display went up the following semester, and these conversations were sparked once again. But time was lost, as were conversations that were silenced during the time we were prevented from hosting our display. The discussions that could have taken place, the minds that could have been changed, and even the lives that might have been saved can never be recovered.
My story is one of many. Thousands of students across the country are experiencing this censorship, or instead are self-censoring for fear of being shut down. Yet, this defies the entire purpose of educational institutions, which are supposed to be marketplaces of ideas.
As G.K. Chesterton stated, “Every education teaches a philosophy; if not by dogma then by suggestion, by implication, by atmosphere.”
Education is not just what is taught in the classroom — it is what we learn from conversations with others, from our atmospheres, and perhaps from simply passing a display of crosses on campus that sparks a desire to learn more, a change of heart, or a decision to choose life.
If we continue to allow certain views to be censored and shut down, it is we who will pay the price. We must take a stand here and now — there are literally lives at stake.