A wave of policies has emerged in the U.S. that limits what teachers can and can’t teach in the classroom. These policies were enacted in the wake of racial awakenings and aim to consolidate power and limit multiracial progress. These educational restrictions were put in place to stop the development of an equitable society that values all people and gives them the chance to succeed.
No matter if you have children at school, the debate over the correct teaching of U.S history and current issues regarding gender, race, and sex impacts all of us. These issues cannot be ignored and we can expect to live in a free society. We will either rise together or fail together.
Race Forward and a number of partners launched H.E.A.L. (Honest Education Action and Leadership). This initiative aims to ensure strong schools and a multiracial democracy. It isIt was created to support parents, local and national organizers and partners in creating inclusive communities. With its partners at The New York University Metro Center, H.E.A.L. Together recently released a school-district organizing document toolkitIt is available a free public training series for Strong Schools and a Multiracial Democracy. The program began working with local organizing groups to create statewide campaigns in increasing numbers of states, including New Hampshire and North Carolina.
Our work is complex, but so is the drive. We also know that those who oppose progress are ruthless and incessant.
Rather than saying, “We oppose teaching children the good and bad parts of American history,” many conservatives have latched onto a college-level abstraction called critical race theory (CRT). They have convincingly convinced parents that CRT is being taught without regard to race and that it inherently harms children of color. CRT is an academic theory that examines the U.S. government, history, and legal systems from a race-based perspective. CRT is not taught in K-12 education. Northeastern University conducted a poll in December 2021. found that 7 in 10 people cannot define CRT. That begs the question: How can people be so adamant about something they can’t even define?
This moment is bigger than “CRT.” Individuals raising alarm about it are also likely to be engaging in other suppression tactics such as banning books, bullying young people into silence around their gender or identity, and targeting and placing new restrictions on LGBTQ communities. Even workshops that are aimed at creating more inclusive workplace cultures have been under attack. California and Florida are considering banning diversity training.
What we’re currently seeing is a backlash to progress. It’s a last-ditch effort for power. It is a last-ditch effort to keep power.
It is evident that some people find CRT to be a boogeyman. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican governor from Virginia, ran in 2021 on an anti CRT platform. In less than two weeks of being sworn in, Youngkin banned CRT in Virginia schools, even though CRT isn’t taught in Virginia schools. He also launched an email tip line for parents to report “divisive” teaching.This kind of behavior is reminiscent a past authoritarian regime in which citizens benefit by turning against one another.
Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis introduced several anti-CRT bills including the Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees (W.O.K.E) Act, which already passed the Florida House and then the Senate; and the Individual Freedom Act, which, if passed, would prohibit Florida’s public schools and private businesses from making people feel “discomfort” or “guilt” based on their race, sex or national origin, bringing the notion of fragility to a new level. Although it may sound like they are protecting marginalized people, the truth is that they want to make it illegal for students not to be taught about slavery and the mass genocide against Native Americans.
This kind of thing is never ending, we need to remember that. First conservatives bemoaned invitations to learn and grow, saying they were being attacked by “woke mobs.” Now lawmakers are banning not only honest conversations about race but also books about U.S. and world history.
These actions are a direct outgrowth of the Trump administration’s inflamed attacks on the ability to speak honestly about the country’s history. Donald Trump’s executive order, which President Joe Biden rescinded on his first day in office, banned racial equity work and training in any federal agency and for any federal contractors or recipients of federal funds. The order followed protests across the country in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death as more people than ever engaged in powerful conversations about race. According to data that Race Forward collected, mainstream media mentioned the term “systemic racism” more times in 2020 than it had in the last three decades.
It didn’t take conservative think tanks and politicians long to realize that those conversations had the potential and power to unite people. These campaigns are the main strategy of the extreme right to try to win back power in 2022 elections. We have made great strides in eliminating racism, homophobias, transphobias, xenophobia, and sexism.
Those who want to build a more inclusive nation can’t ignore attacks on education. They also cannot ignore attempts to rewrite American history or target teachers or children. We must not only resist these movements but also take action. insist on honest education for children and fully funded public schools.
If we recognize that public education forms the foundation of democracy, then we need to organize to protect it against the attacks on teachers with these culture wars and privatization efforts. Just because they start these culture wars, doesn’t mean they have to win them. H.E.A.L. Together is committed in supporting students, parents and families in building durable education justice alliances that allow communities to stay actively involved in and help people appreciate the importance and value of our public school system. We have the chance to educate our children, but also support them in understanding themselves and supporting each other. Our fates are interconnected, despite our differences. We all benefit when we work together.