NCHE Call for Proposals
Freedom From, Freedom To
March 23-25, 2023
One mile north of the Utah State Capitol Building, Ensign Peak rises approximately one thousand feet over Salt Lake City. Dwarfed by neighboring hills, the significance of the peak comes not
from its height but rather its importance in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Fleeing persecution and reeling from the death of Joseph Smith at the
hands of a mob, the community sought a refuge to practice their faith. Having traveled across the continent and being unfamiliar with the region, Brigham Young and the pioneers sought divine
inspiration to help them determine when they had reached their appropriate destination. Upon entering the valley and gazing upon Ensign Peak, Young was said to have remarked, “I want to
go there” for the peak was “a proper place to raise an ensign to the nations.” Historians and believers alike debate whether an actual flag had been placed atop the peak,
but the determination on the part of the members of the Latter-Day Saints to live free from oppression cannot be questioned.
In his seminal 1958 address, Two Concepts of Liberty, the philosopher Isaiah Berlin distinguished between the concepts of negative and positive freedom. Negative freedom
indicates the freedom from something- freedom from the tyranny of the majority or the coercion of the state. Brigham Young and his followers would certainly have recognized
this brand of freedom. In contrast, positive freedom represents something far more self-directive, the freedom to act on one’s own will and to pursue opportunities.
Positive freedom seeks to place authority in the hands of an empowered individual or collective. American history has often involved individuals and groups attempting to gain freedoms that
were originally denied to them. The struggle to have access to equal education, to ensure voting rights, and to marry the person of one’s choice are all examples of positive freedoms.
Many argue that the creation of the welfare state is an example of positive freedoms at work. Going a step further, supporters of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) argue that the program will
provide citizens with the financial means necessary to make personal choices that empower their lives. In not placing any restrictions on how funds are to be used, UBI advocates note that
participants can live life with a measure of dignity otherwise unavailable to them.
Yet, Isaiah Berlin, watching the Cold War unfold, grew increasingly concerned that the noble goals of the socialist revolution in the former U.S.S.R. had succumb to the machinations of
totalitarian rulers. The freedom and self-actualization of the individual became increasingly equated with the needs of the larger community. “Once I take this view,” Berlin says,
“I am in a position to ignore the actual wishes of men or societies, to bully, oppress, torture in the name, and on behalf, of their ‘real’ selves, in the secure knowledge
that whatever is the true goal of man ... must be identical with his freedom.” Berlin argued that positive freedom could have an authoritarian streak that may lead some to believe that
people should be, in the words of Rousseau, “forced to be free.” Ultimately, positive and negative concepts of freedom rest upon two, at times, competing visions of the world.
Although it is not always possible to reconcile these views, we also must acknowledge that they arise from deeply human convictions and therefore merit our deepest consideration and
The National Council for History Education invites proposals on the theme “Freedom From, Freedom To” for the 2023 National Conference. All proposals will be evaluated
on the basis of their intellectual content, their ability to engage the audience, and their overall contribution to the teaching of history. We encourage sessions that address world history
and those that consider how history teachers make specific contributions to diverse learners and to civic life.
Breakout Session: These teacher workshops are typically interactive “how to” sessions designed for the K-12 educator and are 50 minutes in length.
Mini Session: Mini Session topics range from teaching ideas to research reports. Presenters have 15 minutes to present information and answer questions. Each mini session
typically includes three separate 15-minute presentations in the same room within a 50-minute time period.
Poster Session: Poster Session topics range from teaching ideas to research reports. Poster presenters display their information visually (ex. poster/display board) and
interact with interested attendees during the 50-minute session. Presenters remain with their posters. The poster session period may include
8-15 simultaneous presenters.