NCHE Call for Proposals
Freedom From, Freedom To
March 23-25, 2023
Nestled at the base of the Wasatch Mountains, Salt Lake City occupies the ancestral homelands of both Shoshone and Ute peoples. These tribal homelands were claimed by Spain, and then Mexico,
for more than 200 years before the United States acquired the territory in 1848. Utah is now home to eight sovereign native nations, along with generations of migrants from all over the
world. Today, over 100 languages are spoken across the state, reflecting diversity that is both remarkable and typical of the American West.
Utah is the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), whose members are also known as Mormons. In the 1840s, these Euro-Americans followed the overland trails
west to escape mob violence and legal persecution in Illinois and Missouri. They went on to settle a vast domain reaching from Idaho to southern California. African Americans were among the
earliest migrants to Utah; before 1862 their numbers included both freed and enslaved people. Colonization happened at a breathtaking pace in the region, and it did not follow a simple,
westward trajectory. Within a few short decades, railroad jobs and resource extraction drew Latina/o workers northward from Mexico and the Southwest, Chinese and Japanese people from across
the Pacific, and eastern and southern Europeans from across the Atlantic. At the same time, faith drew thousands of LDS immigrants from Britain, Scandinavia, and Polynesia to the
Many of these migrants sought some kind of freedom in the American West—freedom from poverty, insecurity, or persecution; freedom of conscience, of choice, or of opportunity.
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. LDS migrants, Native Americans, and Japanese Americans during
World War II would certainly have recognized this type 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 gain citizenship, to secure 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 succumbed 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.