Trump and Our Students

Dear Rethinking Schools friends,

And so it begins. At a high school in rural Oregon, south of Portland, 30 to 40 white students celebrated Trump this week in front of a Confederate flag and taunted Latina/o students: “Pack your bags, you’re leaving tomorrow,” and “Tell your family goodbye.” Graffiti found in a Minnesota high school bathroom read,”#Gobacktoafrica Make America GReat again.” The Southern Poverty Law Center reports over 200 incidents of racist, sexist, and homophobic harassment and intimidation.

These are harbingers of the dangerous new era launched by the election of Donald Trump. And they underscore the importance of the work we have ahead.

But racist and xenophobic celebrations were not the only response to Trump’s election. In San Francisco, more than a thousand students walked out of class to join protest marches. As one student said, “We’re trying to inform people about white supremacy, racism, homophobia, everything.” And in the New York City high school where Rethinking Schools editor Adam Sanchez teaches, the art club hosted a “No Allegiance to White Supremacy” t-shirt-making gathering, while the Feminism and Black Lives Matter clubs held a joint emergency meeting to discuss the election. These responses are also harbingers: anticipating our schools and classrooms as sites of resistance to everything that Trump stands for. As in San Francisco, students in New York later took to the streets—marching more than 40 blocks from Union Square to Trump Tower. As did students at that Minnesota high school and throughout the country, from Los Angeles to Phoenix, Boulder to Des Moines.

Trump’s election is the single worst political event in our lives. And it’s right to mourn. But a Trump administration is also a call to action. For now, we need to listen to our students and create a space where they can talk, ask questions, and analyze what has happened. We can tell students that we will do whatever we can to make our schools—and our world—safe for them and their families. Part of that involves what we say and do in our classrooms and our schools, including how we work with students doing the taunting and writing the racist graffiti. And part involves the work we do within our unions and community groups, and the alliances we build with other justice-oriented organizations.

We will redouble our efforts to provide the teaching resources that help our students make sense of what is happening in our society, and how we got here. We have resources at Rethinking Schools and the Zinn Education Project that look at other times when racial progress was rolled back by white supremacy. But social movements have made important progress during times that seemed hopeless, and we also have teaching materials that explore these. 

There will be lots more to say—and lots more to do. For now, we simply want to thank you for the work you do that is more essential than ever and to assure you that we are in this together.

With love and hope,
Rethinking Schools editors and staff

Post-patriarchy?

by Jody Sokolower, managing editor of Rethinking Schools
and lead editor for Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality

I came of age in the late 60s, when abortion was illegal, women were routinely blamed for getting raped, and we represented less than 5 percent of the lawyers in the country. When I came out in the early 70s, lesbian moms and gay dads were losing custody of their children, LGBTQ couples had no rights when a partner was dying, and teachers had to stay in the closet.

So it’s easy to feel like things are getting better. And it’s true that things have changed. Just a few weeks ago, the Obama administration included gender identity under Title IX—the civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs. Public attitudes about LGBTQ civil rights have changed markedly.

But misogyny and homophobia are alive and well. Nowhere is that clearer or more damaging than in our schools. Just a couple of months ago, Candler Elementary School in North Carolina school banned a 9-year-old boy from using his “My Little Pony” backpack because it was making him a target for bullies. Rather than working with the children who were taunting and attacking him, they blamed the child for “triggering” the incidents. Twenty-six states say abstinence must be taught as the best method of birth control. Gay and transgender youth are 5-7 percent of the nation’s overall youth population, but 13-15 percent of those in the juvenile justice system.

How can we change the terms? Before Rethinking Schools published Rethinking Columbus in 1991, “Columbus discovered America” was how the history got taught. Now, 300,000 copies later, the conversation has changed. It’s not perfect, but the real history of colonial conquest has made its way into classrooms everywhere.

We need to do the same with sexism, gender, and sexuality. Rethinking Schools has been working intensely in the past few years to cultivate and support the writing of teachers, students, parents, and teacher educators who are doing that work. Now we are working on a new book to bring it all together.

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Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality is built on the premise that we need to build social justice communities in our schools—places where everyone is nurtured as the unique and wonderful being they are, and where tensions and conflicts are acknowledged and resolved.

Equally important is the integration of sexism, gender, and sexuality into the curriculum. Fighting misogyny and homophobia are not issues just for the hallways and playground—struggles, heroes, and problems need to be acknowledged in our history, our literature, and our sciences.

We’re now in the last few days of a crowdfunding campaign to fund Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality. We can’t publish without this support. Our goal is $20,000 and we’re almost there!

Please: Go to the website for our Indiegogo campaign, check out the video, read the sample articles, and help us make our goal. We’re so close! Give generously and spread the word to friends, relatives, and colleagues.

Queering Our Schools: Spring issue of Rethinking Schools

by Jody Sokolower, managing editor
and lead editor for Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality

v28-3The cover theme of our spring issue of Rethinking Schools  is “Queering Our Schools,” and the thought-provoking and inspiring articles will be included in our new book Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality

Our editorial takes up the question: How do we create classrooms and schools where each child, parent, and staff member’s unique, beautiful self is appreciated and nurtured?

High school teacher Adam Grant Kelley was disturbed by the conflicts fueled by homophobia and racism at his school. In “500 Square Feet of Respect: Queering a Study of the Criminal Justice System” he describes the curriculum he developed to build bridges as well as academic skills.

 

Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality is filled with insightful articles like these on dozens of critical topics. You can be a part of publishing this needed classroom resource: Watch our short video below, which tells the story of how this book got its start, meet the editors, and join our campaign to publish Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality.

Resisting Teach for America

Our spring issue also features a special section on Resisting Teach for America. “Organizing Resistance to Teach For America,” by Kerry Kretchmar and Beth Sondel. tells the story of former TFA members joining with parents, students, and veteran teachers to organize a people’s assembly and nationalize efforts against TFA.

In “An Open Letter to New Teach For America Recruits,” Chicago teacher Katie Osgood urges new TFA recruits to think twice before they sign up.

Articles in Spanish!

Three articles in this issue also appear in Spanish:

Enjoy the spring issue, and don’t forget to support our Indiegogo campaign to publish Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality!