What is Students Unite?
Students Unite, a subsidiary of Parents Unite, is a network of students who are trained to advocate for open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, and normalized dissent in K-12 education. Students Unite trains kids to push back, disagree, and provide nuance in their classrooms with the utmost professionalism, respect, and calculation. We provide a platform in which students can access resources and insight from the nation's most prominent organizations, thought leaders, and doers and make connections with peers and professionals across the country to achieve their free speech goals. Academic liberty will continue to be under attack without organized student pushback. Students Unite is that dissent organization.
Open Inquiry, Viewpoint Diversity, Normalized Dissent
3. Normalized Dissent
Normalized Dissent is the principle which requires significant action on part of all Students Unite members: When a teacher presents something, anything, disagreeable or political in nature as unalienable and unworthy of dissent, Students Unite members must speak up and respectfully introduce an opposing view. If anything Students Unite trains students to provide nuance whenever possible; we provide the resources for students to learn how to identify a lack of viewpoint diversity, and how to provide that nuance in the most effective and respectful manner possible. Regardless of where a given peer stands, helping them understand perspectives they did not know existed, or could not fathom being represented in an academic and articulate manner, is a service in which they will be thankful for. Moreover, systematic dissent has an interesting chain effect, where one dissenter leads to another dissenter and so on, as the classroom environment gradually becomes more open to other ideas. It is crucial to the advancement of intellect and our society that social circles, classrooms, and extracurricular activities in K-12 education adopt a culture where disagreement is not only tolerated, but welcome and encouraged. In accordance with this principle, members of Students Unite operate simply to normalize dissent in their classrooms.
Productive, Positive Citizens
We maintain that the idea of an education - the fundamental purpose behind secondary education systems - is nothing other than to prepare teenagers for their inevitable future involvement in their government and society. To accomplish such immense objectives, educational institutions must take on the role of priming their students with the invaluable capacity to reason, understand, and critically analyze problems in order for them to achieve the ability to engage productively with the institutions and ideas of our society. Educational institutions that fail to train students for such engagement have not only paralyzed the individual in the complex web of society’s mechanisms, but have stunted the progress of society in general, as these generations will lack the capacity to analyze issues and ideas in their adult life, thus making progress slow and perhaps regressive.
Students Unite aims to address the deficiencies of the current educational culture by supplementing open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, and normalized dissent into school environments. We are doing nothing more than pursuing the true purpose of an American education; our goal is to instill our members with the proper skills and mentality so when they leave secondary education, they are prepared to be productive, positive citizens with aptitudes for improving themselves and the broader society through discourse.
Our three guiding principles, Open Inquiry, Viewpoint Diversity, and Normalized Dissent, are what every member of Students Unite embody and promote in their communities. These principles have been implemented with much deliberation, and are designed to provide students with the best direction in impacting their schools and communities.
1. Open Inquiry
Open Inquiry serves to be Students Unite's most basic and fundamental principle: We maintain that there are no ideas that can be exempt from examination and debate. It is a dangerous notion to exempt any ideas from the process of thorough examination, discussion, and criticism. The academic right of inquiry on any grounds must be protected in order to preserve a culture of intellectual advancement. Of course, many ideas will be much too easy and simple to defend or refute, thus making examining them a waste of resources. Any position that is deliberately designed to spread hate, cause harm, or distort reality shuts off conversation, and will have no place in Students Unite. Discourse requires all parties involved to adhere to the same level of cordialness, integrity and respect for each other.
2. Viewpoint Diversity
We maintain that, in order to promote the utmost intellectual development and rigor, perspectives and opinions on subjects under debate must be systematically represented without defamation, bias, or personal contention. Additionally, maintaining viewpoint diversity is fundamental to maintaining an academically honest environment, and for Students Unite members, encouraging nuance when possible is a top priority. In accordance with the purpose and goal of this organization, we will never regard an idea, movement, or organization as manifestly just or unjust. We invite all ideas into open debate.
Students Unite President Emmett Gardner (right) and member Daniel Idfresne (left) at the 2021 Parents Unite Diversity of Thought Conference
Students Unite Director Anthony White (right) and President Emmett Gardner (left) establishing justice in Boston, MA
Students Unite Director Jayden Vogan administrating the Students Unite exhibitor table at the 2021 Diversity of Thought Conference
How do we operate?
Our leadership structure is made up of a President, currently Emmett Gardner, and a board of directors, currently Jacqueline Brady, Anthony White, and Jayden Vogan.
On the first Monday of every month, we host an online meeting, open to everyone, where students, parents, teachers, and activists can discuss their experiences in their schools and receive the optimal insight from a collaboration of their peers and professionals from across the country. Guest speakers from many prominent organizations are invited to speak, and the discussion and information they provide is invaluable to any student dealing with this problem. We exchange ideas, strategies, and form new and better ways our cause can permeate more schools. On the platform you will find posters to hang in your school, the newest updates from major players in the open inquiry movement, and the opportunity to connect and collaborate with like-minded individuals whose connections will be valuable long after you graduate high school.
For the rest of the month, members lead clubs, organize events, and spread open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, and normalized dissent in their communities. Students Unite is there to help them accomplish that. We have the resources, contacts, and insight any student needs in accomplishing their free speech goals within their communities. Our leadership is very flexible and ready to respond to any issue that may arise. Our leadership gives presentations at schools, visits clubs, and talks one-on-one with our members in order to help them make the most impact possible.