It’s crucial now more than ever to champion education that is inclusive, honest and promotes critical thinking among young people. To strengthen our democracy, we must resist campaigns that aim to ban books and censor or silence social justice movements. According to the American Library Association, there were at least 1,269 demands to censor books in 2022. Most of the books being banned today feature protagonists of color or titles that center the experiences of LGBTQ+ people.
Fear and untruths typically fuel such anti-democratic efforts. People who are complicit in maintaining white supremacy are often deputized to block any semblance of progress by grabbing control over school boards or electing officials who wish to roll back laws that benefit all.
The current attacks on attempts to build a society where everyone is valued underscore the need to support children and families outside of school walls. Our collective responsibility is to uplift honest history, counter disinformation and engage our communities to serve all children.
Restricting the education of people, particularly Black, Indigenous and other people of color, has recurred throughout United States history, and the silencing of historically marginalized communities has been similarly entrenched in our systems. However, we have the power to course correct.
The following resources, including specific calls to action, can help families advocate for the freedom to obtain an honest and inclusive education in their communities and in schools.
BOOK BANS AND REPRESENTATION
Resisting Dominant Narratives
Amid the hostile learning environment created by censorship and book bans, these LFJ book reviews encourage us all to keep reading—and writing—to counter the narratives that have historically excluded diverse perspectives.
Debbie Reese on Book Bans and Native Representation
Scholar Debbie Reese talks book bans and the fear of a just society.
Celebrating Banned Books Means Advocating for LGBTQ Texts
During #BannedBooksWeek, educators should look to the present as well as the past.
Humanizing Asian Americans in the Classroom Through Children’s Literature
Asian American stories are often absent from classroom libraries. In this article, one educator explains why this omission is so harmful—and recommends ways to fix it.
ADVOCATING FOR INCLUSIVE EDUCATION
Inclusive Education Benefits All Children
In confronting attacks on LGBTQ+ students’ rights to representation and safety in public education, we hold firm to creating inclusive and affirming learning spaces.
A Social Justice Book Study Group
Seeking to push fellow teachers’ thinking on social justice issues, this teacher and her colleague started a book study group. Here’s how they did it.
Arthur’s Gay Teacher and Other Stories Schools Won’t Tell
Local PBS networks’ refusal to air an episode of a children’s show featuring the marriage of two men speaks to a larger problem in our society—and our schools.
UPLIFTING HONEST HISTORY
Power of the Vote: Lifting the Veil of White Supremacy, From the Ocoee Massacre to January 6
Civics education must include complete, honest histories and encourage young people to use their right to vote.
Recovering and Teaching Local History
Local history has a profound effect on our communities. It’s up to educators to learn and teach students about the hard history in their own backyards.
‘Never Again’ Starts With Education
Mandating Holocaust education in U.S. public schools and simultaneously banning or censoring other “hard histories” is ineffective, disingenuous and further demonstrates the importance of teaching honest history.
Teaching Local History in Tulsa
The history of the Tulsa Race Massacre was buried for 100 years. Teachers are trying to change that.
Juneteenth Observances Promote ‘Absolute Equality’
At the birthplace of Juneteenth, residents urge us to engage with honest history to build a just society.
Preserving a More Honest History
Want to take a field trip to a historic home or plantation? Here’s how to choose one that honors the enslaved people who lived and worked there.
Partnering With Museums To Teach Honest History
Looking for support and solidarity in teaching honest history? Partner with a museum.
A Student’s Take on Sugarcoated History
This Black Alabama teen and her family had to fill the gaps in her education at home. Here’s her advice to teachers.
Using Inquiry To Teach Honest History
Use inquiry to teach honest history!
A Care Plan for Honest History and Difficult Conversations
A research-based approach for strategies of care that educators, parents and caregivers can practice when teaching honest history or engaging in difficult conversations.
The History of Whiteness and How We Teach About Race
In this Teaching Hard History podcast episode, historian Ed Baptist provides context on the creation and enforcement of a U.S. racial binary that endures today, as well as Black resistance as a force for political change. And Aisha White urges educators to ask themselves, “What did you learn about race when you were younger?” before they engage with children. She argues that self-reflection and ongoing education are vital tools to combat the fallacy of ignoring students’ racialized experiences.
To Counter Racist Violence, Teach Honest History
The Buffalo shooting is the latest iteration of this nation’s history of anti-Black terrorism.
The Problem With the “Disney Version of History”
We can celebrate Dr. King and interrupt the idea that our progress toward justice has been continuous and inevitable.
Rural Schools and Hard History
The rich history and diversity of rural communities have largely been erased. Appreciating both charts a promising path forward.
This film explores intersectionality in a powerful way, illustrating the beauty and conflict that can arise as we move between languages, places and societal expectations. Bibi, tells the story of a Latinx father and son who can talk about anything—but only in writing, in the letters they pass back and forth when conversation seems too much.
Teaching Hard History: American Slavery
In these short videos, historians and scholars explore the history of African and Indigenous enslavement in what is now the United States.
This film takes viewers to the very communities where heinous acts of violence took place, offering a painful look back at lives lost to lynching and a critical look forward.
One Survivor Remembers
This Oscar-winning documentary presents Gerda Weissmann Klein’s account of surviving the Holocaust as a child.
CALLS TO ACTION
National Day of Action
• Read and sign the open letter about the fight against censorship and other attacks on inclusive curricula by the African American Policy Forum.
• Sign up to participate in an action item on May 3.
• Learn about activation ideas such as hosting a rally, a town hall or a banned book read-a-thon to mobilize your community.
RELATED EXTERNAL RESOURCES
Freedom To Learn
The African American Policy Forum developed an initiative to oppose attacks, in the United States and elsewhere, waged on educational frameworks that address structural inequality, including intersectionality, critical race theory, Black feminism and queer theory.
Banned in the USA: Rising School Book Bans Threaten Free Expression and Students’ First Amendment Rights
In this resource, PEN America documents book bannings reported over a nine-month period (July 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022) and provides an analysis of their findings.
This initiative by the Brooklyn Public Library provides resources to fight against book bans, censorship and political challenges that affect local libraries.
Banned & Challenged Books
Statistics and other resources from the American Library Association about banned and challenged books in the United States.