800,000 Reasons To Teach About DACA

Resources for Explaining the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program to Elementary School Students

By Grace Cornell Gonzales

“It just kind of sucks. I mean, going to college and getting financial aid are difficult. And I’m having a lot of trouble finding jobs. I’ve been here basically my whole life. And Yahaira was born here, so she won’t have these same problems. I just don’t know what I’m supposed to do with my life now that I’ve graduated from high school.”

“Yikes,” I said, shaking my head. I didn’t know what to say to Andrés, the 19-year-old brother of my 3rd-grade student, Yahaira. He was helping me chaperone a field trip to the Oakland Museum of Children’s Art and we were sitting on a bench watching the 8- and 9-year-olds chatter away while they ate their lunches in the courtyard.

I was at a loss for words. I couldn’t tell him I knew how he felt. I couldn’t even imagine.

It wasn’t just him, of course. About half of my 3rd graders in 2009 — those who had immigrated to the United States with their parents and were undocumented — would find themselves in the same situation once they finished high school. And as teachers we were motivating them to be readers, to be writers, to be scientists, to reach for their goals, to reach for the stars — all so that they could confront this same cold reality once they tossed their graduation caps in the air. No real access to college. No jobs. Sometimes even a driver’s license was out of reach. Getting pulled over for running a stop sign could mean deportation to a country most didn’t even remember.

But when DACA passed in 2012, there was hope for young people like Andrés and the students in my 3rd-grade class. Since 2012, 78 percent of the 1.1 million eligible young people in the U.S. — almost 800,000 — have applied for and been granted protections under DACA, allowing them to study and work legally in the United States. My former 3rd graders are 17- and 18-years-old now, old enough to have applied for DACA but not old enough to have truly started reaping its benefits.

Those students are just some of the 800,000 reasons to be heartbroken about the Trump administration’s announcement yesterday to rescind DACA. But as educators, if we stopped teaching every time the political reality was heartbreaking, if we stopped coming up with creative lesson plans every time Trump and his racist administration did something that was, well, racist, we would never teach.

It’s time to start teaching our students about immigration, about deportation, and about DACA — now.

Teaching DACA Now
As teachers, we may be reeling personally from this week’s announcement about DACA, but we also need to figure out how to process the news and explain it to our students — and we need to do it right away. What is happening with DACA and with undocumented immigrants in general affects them all, with varying degrees of intensity. And our students deserve to be a part of this national conversation.


You can find Rethinking Elementary Education here: http://bit.ly/2wNmwVb

So here are some resources I’ve put together to start teaching DACA and the DACA repeal in elementary school classrooms. These are tailored toward upper elementary classrooms — 4th and 5th graders — but could be adjusted down to lower elementary or up to middle school.

Children’s Picture Books About Documentation and Deportation
In order to understand what’s at stake with DACA, students first need to grasp what it means to live in the United States without documentation and how this limits a person’s opportunities. They also need to understand what deportation is and how it can tear families apart. If you teach in a context where many of your students have direct experiences with immigration and deportation, try to create space for them to share their fears and their own knowledge safely. “Qué es Deportar?” by Sandra Osorio that was published in Rethinking Schools is a valuable article that shows how a teacher used book groups and discussions to make space for tough conversations and really listen to her students. Remember, especially in this political climate, to never press students to share information about themselves and their families that they feel uncomfortable sharing or that isn’t safe to share in your school community.

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Outrage — and Resources for Teachers — After the Trump Administration Ends DACA

By Ari Bloomekatz

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was once dubbed a “champion of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant extremists” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, announced Tuesday that the Trump administration was rescinding DACA, an Obama-era program that allowed hundreds of thousands of undocumented youth to live in the United States without the constant threat of deportation.

The blow to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which provides renewable two-year work permits to some 800,000 immigrants, reverberated across the country and there have already been protests in several cities. In many places, the protests have been led by students, young people, and educators.


“We are angry for all the young undocumented immigrants that haven’t turned 16 yet and are waiting to apply for DACA. We are angry, for all the DACA parents that could lose the job that supported their family. We are angry, for all the plans that DACA recipients had that now seem impossible. But we are also strong,” said Thais Marques, a spokesperson for Movimiento Cosecha, which organized a protest at Trump Tower in New York City that resulted in the arrests of nine undocumented youth. Other allies were later arrested demanding the release of those who are undocumented.

“Our strength and resilience have never depended on a work permit,” Marques said.

Educators across the country, many of whom have students who are undocumented, were also furious and decried the Trump administration’s decision.

“Undocumented students are welcome in my classroom. Teachers will build [a] movement to defend students from Trump #DACArepeal #NoOneIsIllegal” Garfield High School (Seattle) teacher and Rethinking Schools editor Jesse Hagopian wrote on Twitter.


Grace Cornell Gonzales, a former elementary school teacher who is an editor of Rethinking Bilingual Education, wrote that “the future of DACA and our undocumented students is the future of our country.”

“As educators, we owe it to these young people to do everything in our power to fight for them — and against this xenophobic administration that is playing with their lives for its own political gain,” Gonzales said. Continue reading

Victory for Mexican American Studies in Arizona: An Interview with Curtis Acosta


In 2010, state lawmakers in Arizona passed legislation that banned courses that “promote resentment toward a race or class of people.” But the legislation was, in reality, specifically targeting a Mexican American Studies program that started decades ago after Black and Latino students filed a desegregation lawsuit.

While Tucson initially kept the Mexican American Studies program, the school board caved in 2012 and ended it after threats that they would lose a significant portion of their state funding.

Part of ending the program meant banning the Rethinking Schools book, Rethinking Columbus, from classrooms along with Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Rodolfo Acuña’s Occupied America, and 500 Años del Pueblo Chicano/500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures by Elizabeth Martínez. In some instances, school authorities shocked students and confiscated the books during class.

After several legal challenges, a federal judge last week ruled that the state of Arizona violated the constitutional rights of students by eliminating the program, and further went on to say that those who targeted it were motivated by racism and political opportunism.

Ari Bloomekatz talked with Dr. Curtis Acosta about the ruling for the Rethinking Schools blog. Acosta taught for 20 years in Tucson with the Mexican American Studies program, was a plaintiff in some of the initial legal challenges to the ban, and was an integral part of the challenge that eventually prevailed. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.


Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 4.59.30 AM

ARI BLOOMEKATZ: Were you surprised by the verdict?

CURTIS ACOSTA: Shocked is better than surprised. At the end of closing arguments, Judge A. Wallace Tashima made it pretty clear — he said it was going to take him a couple weeks and it took him a little bit longer than that. And so we knew it could be any day, and I wasn’t surprised when it finally came, but we were definitely shocked with the intensity, and the care, and the totality of the victory. Judge Tashima’s legal analysis was just exhaustive in how he connected all of the actions, both in the production and construction of the law as being highly motivated by racial animus, to the application, to the enforcement. It was amazing, so that’s the reason the word shocked comes to mind. Just an incredible moment in history and an incredible punctuation to a long journey.

BLOOMEKATZ: It’s been a really long journey. How did you feel as your lawyer was telling you about the verdict?

ACOSTA: Absolutely shocked and in disbelief that it went our way so decisively. We knew we had the truth on our side, we knew what we went through. We knew who these people were who did this to us, and it’s just after so many years of being told you’re crazy, and we have tinfoil hats, and down is up and up is down, it was just shocking to hear the clarity and the affirmation, the validity of our program, of my colleagues and me. Our integrity was restored through a 9th Circuit judge. This is the United States of America judicial system, it’s pretty amazing to think that Mexican American students and the Mexican American community and ourselves as Mexican American teachers

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could find this form of justice. We always believed in it, you have to, otherwise you don’t keep seeking justice and you quit and obviously we never quit. So the reaction was one of just exhilaration and disbelief. The disbelief part because that validation was never coming from the state of Arizona, and it certainly wasn’t coming from our school district who bent to the will of these racist actors. And it turned the tide of what was once a very beautiful community, a strong program that was leading the way for what we see now kind of catching fire throughout the nation, and so our humanity was restored to a large degree. I was just overwhelmed with excitement about the fact Judge Tashima saw what really happened and the evidence was overwhelming and he saw it clearly.

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As the Year Begins, the Burning Question on Every Teacher’s Mind: “What Should I Say About Charlottesville?”

By Deborah Menkart

What was troubling enough as 20th century history is happening in the present time. It is essential that we have discussions about Charlottesville in the classroom.

Charlottesville“What should I say about Charlottesville?”

It’s the burning question on every teacher’s mind as the new school year gets underway.

On Twitter, users add lessons and resources to the #CharlottesvilleSyllabus and #CharlottesvilleCurriculum pages; everything from identity charts to readings on the history of white supremacy to conflict resolution activities.

It’s all good stuff.

However, what is needed is not just day-after or week-after lessons, but a chance to reexamine what children learn about history — and themselves — all year long. This work needs to begin in elementary school, where students’ ideas about their place in the world are shaped.

“Young children’s minds are like sponges, soaking up the most obscure, profound (and sometimes erroneous!) things imaginable,” Rethinking Schools editors wrote in the introduction to Rethinking Elementary Education.

The Rethinking Schools editors add that for teachers, the challenge is to help young students to acquire the “critical dispositions and questioning” skills that “set the stage to encourage children to act on what they’ve learned — to have ‘civic courage,’ to act as if we live in a democracy.” The editors stress that they do not want to teach students what to think or “how their teachers think their parents should vote.” Rather, they aspire to “create a learning community that models and thinks hard about values of justice and empathy.”

Charlottesville has been a national wake-up call (sadly one of many) as to how important it is to create classrooms that model the justice and empathy values.

Here are some ways to do that in elementary school classrooms:

First and foremost, it is vital that young people have a place to process disturbing news and to be reassured that their lives matter and that they are safe. The images of Nazis and other white supremacists marching with guns and impunity are unnerving for most of us, but can be particularly traumatizing for students of color, Native Americans, Muslims and Jewish students.

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Para los educadores después de Charlottesville: Enseñando en la era de Trump


Gráfico: Susan Simensky Bietila

Después del horrible despliegue de violencia y odio en Charlottesville el pasado fin de semana (11-13 de Agosto), que fue alimentado por la supremacía blanca, muchos maestros se han acercado a Rethinking Schools para preguntar acerca de estrategias sobre las cuales pensar y contextualizar nuestro papel como educadores en este momento.

Es importante que los maestros hablen de Charlottesville en sus aulas, y hay varios pasos inmediatos que podemos tomar (vea “Seven Ways That Teachers Can Respond to the Evil of Charlottesville – Starting Now“). Pero también es importante situar a Charlottesville dentro de un contexto y un cuestionamiento más amplios: ¿Qué significa ser un maestro en la era de Trump?

La primavera pasada, cuando Rethinking Schools celebró su 30vo aniversario, nuestros editores abordaron esta pregunta.


Repensando las escuelas nació en la era de Reagan. Celebramos nuestro décimo tercer aniversario en la era de Trump.

Sabemos algo acerca de mantenernos esperanzados durante los tiempos difíciles. Hace tres décadas, en nuestro primer editorial, escribimos “No nos lamentemos, organicémonos”, tomando prestado el consejo del gran trovador de los trabajadores Joe Hill.

Si ha existido algún tiempo en el que necesitábamos acatar este consejo, éste es ese tiempo. Sin embargo, no es tan claro cómo seguir exactamente estas palabras en este momento histórico.

Necesitamos apoyarnos en todo
lo que hemos aprendido acerca de la resistencia y la enseñanza para la justicia social a lo largo de los años aunque, como educadores, sabemos que siempre tenemos algo que aprender. Esta es
una razón por la cual continuamos publicando Repensando las Escuelas y para invitar a nuestros lectores a proponer historias acerca de sus propias experiencias en la enseñanza y en sus escuelas –como una manera en la que los educadores y activistas puedan informarse e inspirarse los unos a los otros y para alinear nuestro trabajo con los jóvenes que comparten nuestras mismas aspiraciones a una sociedad mejor y más justa.

Al ser una comunidad multi-generacional, los editores
y contribuidores de Repensando
las Escuelas construimos nuestro entendimiento compartido del mundo y compromiso con la justicia social en los movimientos de los Derechos Civiles,
en contra de la Guerra estadounidense en Vietnam, y por la liberación de la mujer en los 1960 y 1970. Continuamos aprendiendo de las luchas en contra de la intervención de Estados Unidos en Centroamérica; y de los movimientos anti-segregación, LGBT, anti guerra
de Iraq y anti globalización. Más recientemente, los movimientos de Black Lives Matter, justicia climática, derechos de los inmigrantes y la Lucha por $15 han inspirado a un mayor número de educadores a intercalar asuntos de justicia social en sus salones de clase y a identificarse con Repensando las Escuelas.

Ahora estamos frente a Trump
– y la galería de corruptos racistas, billonarios, islamófobos, misóginos, y privatizadores quienes lo aconsejan y le sirven. Para hacer la situación aún peor, a nivel federal y en docenas de estados, los republicanos de la extrema derecha controlan los poderes legislativo, ejecutivo y algunas veces, el judicial. Aún más, la historia y contradicciones del Partido Democrático solamente enfatizan lo mucho que los movimientos sociales independientes necesitarán liderar la resistencia.

En su discurso inaugural, Trump dejó claro lo que él pensaba de las escuelas públicas. Él se quejó de las “matanzas” que han plagado la nación y dio como ejemplo “un sistema educativo inyectado con dinero
pero que deja a nuestros jóvenes y hermosos estudiantes privados de todo conocimiento”. Y ahora tiene a Betsy DeVos como su secretaria de educación, una persona enteramente privilegiada quien ha pasado su carrera socavando y privatizando las escuelas públicas – y promoviendo charlatanerías educativas como su Neurocore “centros de rendimiento del cerebro”.

Bajo estas circunstancias, no solamente tenemos que ser educadores de la justicia social más eficientes sino también guardianes de la seguridad
de nuestros estudiantes y de la salud fundamental de la educación pública. Aún más, tenemos que encontrar el tiempo de organizarnos con otros y participar en los crecientes movimientos de resistencia a Trump y a todos los aspectos de su agenda.

A medida que reflexionamos sobre nuestros 30 años de publicación de Repensando las Escuelas y de nuestro trabajo por la justicia social, nos gustaría compartir algunas lecciones cosechadas de este trabajo.

Construyamos salones de justicia
social. Hemos abogado por la belleza
y fortaleza de aquellos salones de
clase que prefiguran aspectos del tipo
de sociedad en la que nos gustaría
vivir. Hemos promovido prácticas motivadoras basadas en la teoría liberadora de Paulo Freire y otros. Las características de un salón de clases
de justicia social que describimos
en Repensando nuestros salones de
clase todavía animan nuestro trabajo
y publicaciones. Nuestra enseñanza debe alentar a los estudiantes a hacer preguntas críticas sobre nuestro
mundo. Debe apreciar el activismo y las luchas; y también la bondad, alegría y cooperación – un currículo de empatía que construye destrezas académicas esenciales y un entendimiento poderoso. Es hora de tener audacia en nuestro trabajo, no timidez. Puede que Trump sea el presidente pero no es el presidente de nuestros salones de clase.

Hagamos de nuestras escuelas invernaderos de la democracia. La enseñanza de la justicia social en un salón de clases aislado es difícil de sostener. La enseñanza más exitosa tiene lugar donde las escuelas enteras están comprometidas con esta pedagogía crítica y participativa. En contraste con las declaraciones fortachonas de Trump, “yo solo puedo arreglarlo”, nuestras escuelas deben promulgar
la democracia al ser gobernadas de
una manera colaborativa con una participación significativa de los estudiantes, personal, familias y padres. Dadas las incertidumbres políticas que se están desarrollando, la creación de las escuelas de la comunidad como centros de renacimiento y resistencia –anclas de la esperanza de nuestras comunidades – será una manera importante de luchar contra la agenda de Trump.

Promovamos la solidaridad para enfrentar el racismo y la xenofobia. El asalto de Trump a los inmigrantes y refugiados y la deshumanización de
las personas de color, están basadas en patrones históricos de la supremacía blanca, hostilidad hacia los inmigrantes y la demonización del “otro”, diseñadas para provocar el miedo. El primer
libro que publicamos fue Repensando a Colón, el cual ofreció a los educadores
y activistas las herramientas para poner de cabeza al mito de El Descubrimiento de América de Colón, y mirar a estos eventos desde el punto de vista de las personas que estaban aquí primero. La publicación inicial de Repensando a Colón, en 1991, fue de 30.000 copias, las cuales se vendieron en tres semanas; y la publicación ha vendido ya más de un cuarto de millón de copias. Esta respuesta nos demostró que hay muchos educadores que, como nosotros, estaban hartos y cansados de un currículo que alababa la supremacía blanca.  Continue reading

For Educators After Charlottesville: Teaching in the Time of Trump


Graphic: Susan Simensky Bietila

After the horrific display of violence and hatred in Charlottesville last weekend that was fueled by white supremacy, many teachers have approached Rethinking Schools to ask for frameworks on how to think about and contextualize our role as educators in this moment.
It’s important that teachers talk about Charlottesville in their classrooms, and there are several immediate steps we can take (see “Seven Ways That Teachers Can Respond to the Evil of Charlottesville – Starting Now“), but it is also important to position Charlottesville within a broader context and question: What does it mean to be a teacher in the time of Trump?
Last spring, as Rethinking Schools celebrated its 30th anniversary, our editors tackled this question.

Teaching in the Time of Trump
By The Editors of Rethinking Schools

Rethinking Schools was born in the time of Reagan. We celebrate our 30th anniversary in the time of Trump. We know something about holding on to hope during hard times. Three decades ago, in our first editorial, we wrote “Don’t mourn, organize,” borrowing advice from the great labor troubadour Joe Hill.

If there were ever a time when we needed to heed this advice, that time is now. But exactly how we follow these words at this historical moment is not so clear.

We need to draw on everything we’ve learned about resistance and teaching for social justice through the years. But as educators, we know that we always have more to learn. That’s one reason we continue to publish Rethinking Schools and to invite readers to submit stories about their own teaching and school experiences — as a way for educators and activists to inform and inspire one another, and to align our work with young people with our aspirations for a better, more just society.

As a multigenerational community, Rethinking Schools editors and contributors first built our shared understanding of the world and commitment to social justice in the movements for civil rights, against the American war in Vietnam, and for women’s liberation in the 1960s and 1970s. We continued to learn from struggles against U.S. intervention in Central America; and the anti-apartheid, LGBTQ, anti-Iraq war, and anti-globalization movements. More recently the Black Lives Matter, climate justice, immigrant rights, and Fight for $15 movements have inspired increasing numbers of educators to weave social justice concerns into their classrooms and identify with the principles of Rethinking Schools.

Now we face Trump — and the rogue gallery of racists, billionaires, Islamophobes, misogynists, and privatizers who advise and serve him. And to make matters worse, at the federal level and in dozens of states, extreme right-wing Republicans control the legislative, executive, and sometimes the judicial branches of government. Moreover, the history and contradictions of the Democratic Party only underscore how much independent social movements will need to lead the resistance.

In his inaugural address, Trump made clear what he thought of public schools. He complained about the “carnage” that plagues this nation and gave as an example “an education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.” And now he has Betsy DeVos as his secretary of education, an individual bathed in privilege who has spent her career undermining and privatizing public schools — and promoting educational quackery like her Neurocore “brain performance centers.”

Under these circumstances, we not only have to become more effective social justice educators, but also guardians of our students’ safety and the fundamental health of public education. Moreover, we must also make the time to organize with others and participate in the growing movements to resist Trump and all aspects of his agenda.

As we reflect on our 30 years of publishing Rethinking Schools and working for educational justice, we’d like to share some lessons gleaned from this work:

Create Social Justice Classrooms
We’ve championed the beauty and strength of classrooms that prefigure aspects of the kind of society we’d like to live in. We have promoted engaging classroom practices that draw on the liberatory theory of Paulo Freire and others. The characteristics of a social justice classroom that we first articulated in Rethinking Our Classrooms still animate our work and publications today. Our teaching should encourage students to ask critical questions of our world. It should prize activism and struggle, and also kindness, joy, and cooperation — a curriculum of empathy that builds essential academic skills and powerful understandings. It’s a time for audacity in our work, not timidity. Trump may be president, but he is not president of our classrooms.

Make Our Schools Greenhouses of Democracy
Social justice teaching in one isolated classroom is hard to sustain. The most successful teaching takes place where entire schools are committed to such critical, participatory pedagogy. And, in contrast to Trump’s strongman declaration, “I alone can fix it,” our schools should enact democracy by being governed in a collaborative manner, with significant student, staff, family, and parent involvement. Given the unfolding political uncertainties, the creation of community schools as centers of renaissance and resistance — anchors of hope in our communities — will be one important way to fight the Trump agenda.

Nurture Solidarity to Counter Racism and Xenophobia
Trump’s assault on immigrants and refugees, and his dehumanization of people of color, are rooted in historic patterns of white supremacy, hostility toward immigrants, and fear-stoking demonization of “the other.” The first book we published was Rethinking Columbus, which offered educators and activists the tools to turn the Columbus-discovers-America myth on its head, and to look at these events from the standpoint of the people who were here first. Rethinking Columbus’ initial press run of 30,000 copies in 1991 sold out in three weeks, and the publication went on to sell more than a quarter million copies. This response showed us that there were lots of educators who, like us, were sick and tired of a curriculum that sang the praises of white supremacy.

The Black Lives Matter movement and other long-standing struggles for justice set the context for resistance to this administration’s anti-immigrant and refugee attacks. At this moment, educators and schools have a great responsibility to ensure not only that students are safe and free from harassment and bullying, but also that we act in solidarity with students and families who face deportation.

Fight Sexism, Heterosexism, and Transphobia
The sexism and misogyny displayed by our 45th president have been breathtaking. That millions of people could vote for him — albeit not a majority — underscores the importance of education work around gender discrimination. Especially beginning with work toward our recent book Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality , we have sought to provide a vision of what educators are doing — and can do — to fight for women’s and gender equality. The massive marches organized by women the day after Trump’s inauguration showed the power of women’s leadership and jump-started the resistance that will be necessary to challenge Trump’s agenda.

Put Children First, Not Data
The test-driven policies of the Bush and Obama administrations narrowed the curriculum and straitjacketed pedagogy. The threat now is that an administration deeply hostile to all things public will double-down on the test-and-punish policies begun in earnest with No Child Left Behind, but continued with even greater gusto under Obama and Duncan. We’ve always held that the best defense of public schools is to transform them — to rethink our classrooms and schools, so that they genuinely meet the needs of the communities they serve. But as we work to improve public schools, we need to continue to oppose the use of standardized tests to discredit and defund them. Public schools need more resources, not fewer, and we need to fight for them.

Fight Privatization of the Commons
In 1988, shortly after we launched Rethinking Schools, we first warned of the dangers of school privatization. Milwaukee, where Rethinking Schools started, is home of the first and one of the largest publicly funded private religious school voucher programs in the nation, which has funneled nearly $2 billion of public funds into private schools. This is theft, plain and simple. Across the planet, this attack on the “commons” — everything needed for the public good, especially schools — is widespread. The appointment of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education and Trump’s pledge to pour $20 billion into private school voucher plans signal escalating attacks as religious zealots and privatizing charlatans at local and state levels are emboldened. We must continue to defend the promise of public schools, while working to ensure that they serve all students well.

Build International Solidarity
More than ever, educators need to think internationally. Trump’s rise to power parallels the racialized, neo-fascist movements gaining strength in Europe — including Marine Le Pen in France, Golden Dawn in Greece, and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands. Their scapegoating of the “other” continues the centuries-old privileging of the “white” north over the global south.

The massive worldwide demonstrations immediately following Trump’s inauguration were an encouraging sign that more and more people outside of the United States recognize the need for global solidarity to oppose the growing tendencies of hypernationalism and unfettered capitalism.

Through our books and magazine we have encouraged teachers to bring a global perspective to their teaching — to teach critically about the “war on terror,” sweatshops and child labor, U.S. military intervention throughout the world, the occupation of Palestine, and the climate crisis. More than ever, we need to learn from the struggles of teachers and students in Mexico, Quebec, Chile, and throughout the world, and to see ourselves in solidarity with people everywhere who struggle for greater democracy and for a livable planet.

Build Social Justice Unionism
For more than 20 years we have promoted an affirmative vision of social justice teacher unionism, characterized by increased democracy and participation by members, alliances with community groups, and attention to both social justice and pedagogical issues. The growing number of local and state teacher unions — in both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers — that are putting into practice aspects of this type of unionism is encouraging, and we hope will inspire many other educators to push their unions in this direction. We will continue to publish articles that describe exemplary efforts to include our unions in the broader movement for social justice.

Support Student Activism
Children and youth are our best hope for creating a decent world. As educators, we have a moral and civic responsibility to be models for our students. Our classrooms should be places where students are motivated to think critically, look at multiple points of view — especially those that have been silenced — and evaluate whose interests those points of view serve. We should encourage students to take informed action inside and outside of the classroom. In the months following Trump’s election, thousands of students took to the streets across the country. We believe student activism will continue to grow, and we must nurture and support it. When students act on their beliefs and values about what is fair and just, they learn that democracy happens every day, not just on election day.

We’re All in This Together
We are heartened by the steady growth in recent years of organizing for social justice education, including the growth of teaching for social justice gatherings throughout the country. One of the longest-running is organized by Teachers 4 Social Justice every year in San Francisco; others have emerged in New York, Boston, Chicago, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, the Northwest, St. Louis, and elsewhere. Social justice education groups like Education for Liberation and Journey for Justice bring together teachers, students, parents, and activists to share experiences and talk strategy. Our rapidly growing movement has great potential to transform teacher unions, schools, and entire districts.

Thirty years ago, we began Rethinking Schools as a free newsprint tabloid for Milwaukee Public School educators. As we grew to reach an audience around the country, we continued to hope that what we published would help educators become better teachers and better organizers. Thirty years later, this remains our goal.

No doubt, we have incredibly hard times ahead. But we know of no better guidance than the words of Joe Hill we began with 30 years ago: “Don’t mourn, organize.”

Seven Ways that Teachers Can Respond to the Evil of Charlottesville — Starting Now

An educator confronts the failures of an education system that breeds white supremacy, and offers concrete tips for teachers who seek to challenge it.

By Xian Franzinger Barrett
This article first appeared on AlterNet 


White supremacy did not appear as a surprise guest to this weekend’s events. It is a plague that permeates every aspect of our shared society. At the same time as it threatens to strip people of color — especially Black — of their lives and freedom, it corrodes the logic, reason and future of our society as a whole. White supremacy is also a deeply embedded feature of our education system even as it runs counter to the values we claim to hold in pursuit of education.

In response to this weekend’s deadly white supremacist rallies and violence in Charlottesville, there was a shared outrage among educators on social media. I saw a range of reactions. There were a lot of folks — especially white — saying: “How could this happen in America?” And there were a lot of folks — especially folks of color — saying: “We’ve been telling you that this is happening in America.” What many of us shared was a conviction that the events in Charlottesville couldn’t go unchallenged.

In considering effective responses while looking at the sea of hateful white faces in the media of the event, I wondered: “Who grew this hate? Who planted it? Who nurtured it? Who protected it from exposure to education and love?” With an eye to education, I asked:  “What schools failed to educate these white supremacists? Who were their teachers? Who taught this hate?”

As teachers, our job is not solely to pour mathematics, science, language arts or any other content knowledge into the heads of our students. It is our duty to our profession, to our society and to the students to lovingly teach them to learn and grow beautifully as complete humans. The fact that the violent white supremacists in Charlottesville moved through dozens of classrooms that taught English, Social Studies, Math, Science and other subjects while nurturing or enhancing their white supremacist ideals is an indictment of our daily practice. It says that their institutions may have effectively served math facts or essay writing, but it was with a side of white supremacy.

This may seem too harsh on my colleagues at predominantly white schools. Let me be clear: first, this is not about blame. I write out of deep urgency that we address the cultural and systemic failures in our school system that are promoting white supremacy. I ask you to consider how it is that we’ve grown accustomed to narratives regarding the failings of segregated schools that serve students of color, but not the schools that educated those who defend and promote that segregation.

So what do we do?
As we walk into our classrooms in the coming weeks, here are a number of concrete actions every educator can take to address the evil that was on display in Charlottesville. Some of these suggestions deal with Charlottesville specifically, but most will help educators address the longer term systemic challenges in our classrooms that foster white supremacy and other oppression.   Continue reading