WHY FREEDOM MATTERS!
“With solid foundations in civics, students are more likely to be informed, engaged citizens in our country. Our goal with Freedom Matters! is simple: to foster the next generation of Americans to care about democracy and individual liberty at home and abroad.”
Former First Lady Laura W. Bush directed this message to nearly 15o educators as she officially launched Freedom Matters!, a new supplemental curriculum that aims to deepen students’ understanding of freedom around the world.
Too often we take freedom for granted in the United States, but it’s never guaranteed. Freedom House, an international watchdog, reports that global liberty is mired in a nine-year decline. The January murders of Charlie Hebdo staff by terrorists in Paris and North Korea’s alleged cyber-attacks on Hollywood in 2014, exemplify how tyranny continues to be a force for chaos, violence and suffering from which free societies are not immune.
Let’s also not forget, it wasn’t that long ago in the United States when women couldn’t vote, and minorities, particularly African-Americans, were victims of pervasive discrimination. By developing the next generation of civic leaders who care about their own freedom and that of others, we strengthen our ability to protect American liberty and reverse freedom’s retreat internationally.
National assessment data shows only 24 percent of our high school seniors are “proficient” in civics, a trend going back more than a decade. The Bush Institute’s Freedom Matters! and new film, What is Freedom, help close that gap.
Drawing on the experiences of dissidents interviewed by the Freedom Collection, a web-based, video archive of freedom activists worldwide, the curriculum traces the development of freedom from ancient civilizations to the present while studying the tenets of democracy.
Through the dissident testimonies, students explore the universal nature of freedom that unites us all; they also confront the reality of nightmarish regimes, past and present, that extinguish human dignity and deny their people’s rights.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a Cuban dissident like Antunez, a Tunisian activist like Sarah Ben Behia, or a North Korean refugee like Han Nam-su; we all recognize the same basic human rights and share the same aspirations for freedom.
Christopher Walsh is the Program Coordinator for Human Freedom.
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