Educators and allies rally to defend the freedom to learn

WASHINGTON, June 26, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Educators and their allies at more than 170 sites held events to raise awareness about the threats to our democracy posed by book bans and anti-history education laws. The events included pop-up Teach Truth displays, banned book swaps, teach-ins, history tours, rallies, and more.

The actions came as state lawmakers are doubling down on bills and other measures to ban school curricula that include information about the role of racism, sexism, heterosexism, and other forms of oppression in U.S. history.

“Astoundingly, today, almost half of all children in the public schools are in a jurisdiction that has passed a law or policy that bans honest education about race, about gender, about sexuality,” said Jesse Hagopian, a high school teacher in Washington state, a Rethinking Schools editor, and co-editor of Teaching for Black Lives. “This 4th Annual Day of Action is a grassroots effort to fight these laws and advocate for honest education that empowers students to create a more just society.”

The Teach Truth campaign is a commitment by educators to teach truthfully about U.S. history, LGBTQ+ rights, the climate crisis, and Palestine. These events began on Saturday, June 8, the 3rd anniversary of Teach Truth actions in June of 2021 and on the four-year anniversary of the June 2020 uprising. In Cleveland, the local NAACP and Teachers Union hosted an event that began with “Read Flash Mob” and included remarks by a veteran of the Freedom Rides. In D.C., a steady stream of people visited the #TeachTruth booth at the Capital Pride Festival. Teachers said they appreciated the support and everyone else expressed surprise at the extent of the book bans. They promised to keep this issue front and center in upcoming local and national elections. There were actions in San Juan, Puerto Rico; Goochland, Virginia; Kansas City, Kansas; Miami, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana; and many more cities in June, with more continuing throughout the summer.

The Teach Truth campaign is organized by the Zinn Education Project (coordinated by Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change) and is cosponsored by 65 organizations, including the American Library Association, the National Education Association, Learning for Justice, The New Republic, Climate Generation, H.E.A.L. Together, National Education Association, GLSEN, the African American Policy Forum, and the SNCC Legacy Project.

Rocio Inclan, senior director of the National Education Association Center for Racial and Social Justice, explained that,

The Teach Truth Day of Action is part of a campaign to reclaim public education as a common good. And then transform it into something that it really was never designed to be, and that is a racially and socially just and equitable system that prepares all the students, every single one of us, to succeed in a diverse and interdependent world.

Jocelyn Walker, vice-president of communications for the African American Policy Forum (AAPF), said that her organization supports the Teach Truth campaign due to the critical times we are in:

The attacks on education started with anti-critical race theory and stop-woke laws. But it doesn’t end there. Billionaire dark money funded the conservative infrastructure that initiated attacks on critical race theory and DEI at all levels of education, led by the Heritage Foundation. These same funders are behind Project 2025, a 900-page, conservative extremist mandate to roll back civil rights at all levels of federal government. Why should we all be alarmed? These are the same people looking to end all DEI efforts, target LGBTQ+ plus communities, overturn decades of civil rights laws, and create obstacles to voting that disproportionately impacts Black and brown folks.

There were over 4,000 instances of book bans in the first half of this school year, according to PEN America’s April 2024 report, Banned in the USA: Narrating the Crisis. Eleven individuals are driving the overwhelming majority of book challenges according to a Washington Post analysis. The majority of targeted books are by Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, or LGBTQ+ authors.

Most sites hosted an interactive Teach Truth pop-up display to introduce the public to the types of books being banned, the broader impact of the chilling effect on a wide range of history topics, and resources to get involved locally.

Organizers set up the display table at Pride festivals, libraries, bookstores, Juneteenth celebrations, farmers’ markets, and other locations. Visitors to the display were asked to check their voter registration status and encouraged to pay attention to this year’s elections. Some sites hosted banned book swaps, community festivals, rallies, and history walking tours. A list of selected locations follows this release. (The display materials were funded and/or donated by the National Education Association, American Library Association, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, Capstone Publishing, and Lush Cosmetics.)

Education doctoral student Greg Wickenkamp explained why he organized an action in Iowa City,

I was pushed out of teaching a few years ago when politicians scapegoated my teaching practice and administrators didn’t stand up to them. Iowa’s 2021 history censorship law deliberately created such confusion and fear that my school administrators were unable to say whether I could teach that chattel slavery was wrong. Co-organizers and I want to make sure educators and students in Iowa know the public has their back. We love our students and teachers. We support their right to be their full selves at work and to teach and learn factual information, however much it might challenge conservative partisan agendas.

Teach Truth events have and continue to take place in dozens of cities, including the following:

Mobile, Ala.

Fairbanks, Alaska

Helena-West Helena, Ark.

San Diego & more cities, Calif.

Hartford, Conn.

Washington, D.C.

Miami, Fla.

Atlanta & Stone Mountain, Ga.

East Hazel Crest, Ill.

Indianapolis, Ind.

Iowa City, Iowa

Kansas City & Topeka, Kan.

New Orleans, La.

Boston, Mass.

Annapolis, Md.

Detroit, Mich.

Red Wing, Minn.

Las Vegas, Nev.

Paterson, N.J.

Asheville & Cary, N.C.

Albuquerque, N.M.

Brooklyn, N.Y.

Cleveland & Kent, Ohio

Norman, Okla.

Philadelphia & Pittsburgh, Pa.

San Juan, P.R.

Providence, R.I.

Columbia & Greenville, S.C.

Red Oak, Texas

Salt Lake City, Utah

Richmond, Va.

Bainbridge Island & Seattle, Wash.

And many more.

See press call highlights and recording and event highlights.


Deborah Menkart 

[email protected]

Cision View original content to download multimedia:

SOURCE Zinn Education Project


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