Participants in a virtual press call on Tuesday discussed “the growing chorus of diverse voices speaking out against politicians and their far-right supporters’ attempts to attack students’ freedom to learn, and educators’ freedom to teach.”
On Tuesday, teachers and their allies from across the United States participated in a virtual meeting to discuss their upcoming Teach Truth Day of Action, which is set to take place on June 10.
On that day, educators, students, parents, and community members in cities and towns across the nation will rally and pledge to #TeachTruth and defend LGBTQ rights.
Tuesday’s virtual press call was hosted by the nonprofit Zinn Education Project and was held to discuss “the growing chorus of diverse voices speaking out against politicians and their far-right supporters’ attempts to attack students’ freedom to learn, and educators’ freedom to teach,” the group said.
During just the first half of the 2022-23 school year, Pen America has found 1,477 instances of individual books banned, affecting 874 unique titles. Several states have also taken legislative measures to censor how and what children are taught in schools.
The Zinn Education Project—which advocates for the teaching of “a more accurate, complex, and engaging understanding of history than is found in traditional textbooks and curricula”—criticized politicians’ ongoing attacks on public education and the failure to address real issues facing the country.
“Lawmakers in at least 44 states have introduced legislation or pursued other measures that attempt to require educators to lie to students about the role of racism, sexism, heterosexism, transphobia, and other forms of oppression throughout U.S. history,” the organization said in a statement. “While claiming to ‘protect’ young people, the right-wing legislators block any efforts to address gun violence (the leading cause of death for young people) and the existential threat of climate change.”
More than 50 other prominent racial and social justice organizations were involved in hosting the call, as well. Some of these groups are also involved in next week’s day of action.
In Pennsylvania, several events are set to take place on June 10. The public can read banned books and make signs at Pocket Books Book Shop in Lancaster. In Philadelphia, the public is invited to attend a teach-in at the President’s House, at Independence Mall. The event will feature an interactive visual art making table, poetry readings, pop-up shops, and more. It will start at 1 p.m. ET. Events are also set to take place in Pittsburgh and Johnstown.
Tuesday’s call featured comments from multiple educators, activists, and allies.
Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, spoke about the “stories that need to be told” and what she’s seen while speaking with students across the country.
She spoke about how during a recent visit to Florida, several students shared their feelings about how Florida’s Department of Education—under the leadership of Gov. Ron DeSantis—rejected an Advanced Placement course on African American studies earlier this year.
“As two Black students and one white student described the loss of the opportunity to learn about themselves and each other, I knew that they reflected the very best of America,” she said. “These brilliant students know the importance of the right to see themselves mirrored back in the books and the materials that they read and learn from at school.”
Don Dumas, a history teacher at Bonita Vista High School in Chula Vista, Calif. echoed her sentiments, and spoke about the motivations of right-wing lawmakers.
“A proper history education is liberating, and the people in power now know that,” he said. “If [history] is taught properly, it represents a threat to the traditional power structures in this country. When [students] start to learn about the way society is structured by design and that they are purposely denied opportunities in order for resources and power to be hoarded by the few, they get angry. Then after anger, they become active. That’s what my students did.”
In addition to the events happening across the country on June 10, the Zinn Education Project encourages the public to plan action in their own cities and communities. You can learn more about how to do that here.