Teachers Defy GOP Bills to Ban History Lessons

More than 1,000 teachers from across the United States have signed the pledge to teach history honestly. This is an act of resistance to the GOP bills in at least 15 states that would require teachers to lie to students about the role of racism, sexism, heterosexism, and oppression throughout U.S. history.

The pledge states: “We, the undersigned educators, refuse to lie to young people about U.S. history and current events — regardless of the law.”

We share some of the pledges below. There are many more. If you are an educator, we invite you to sign the pledge. Everyone else, please share the pledges and tell your state legislators to defend the teaching of people’s history.


The truth is worth more than the $5,000 fine the State of Arizona wants to slap on me if I allow my students to become critical thinkers.

Students need to see themselves in our nation’s history. Sometimes that history is uncomfortable, but acknowledging this serves to support culturally sensitive teaching.

—Erin Chisholm
High School History Teacher, Glendale, Arizona

I want to be on the right side of history. Future generations will talk about this moment, the way legislators and extremist white supremacy groups used fear-mongering and conspiracy theories to stop teachers from teaching the truth.

I want it to be known that I was one of countless educators nationwide who taught kids to identify, understand, and work to end racism, sexism, white supremacy culture, and the silencing of marginalized voices from our curricula. Teaching the truth does not mean teaching kids to hate America. It is teaching them that we all play a role in helping our country become a more perfect union.

—Kumar Sathy
Elementary School Teacher, Hillsborough, North Carolina

How is it possible to teach about civics without discussing racism? How will our nation ever move past racism if it can’t acknowledge that it happened in the first place?

—Zach Wilson
Middle School Social Studies Teacher, San Antonio, Texas

We have a responsibility to be more inclusive and truthful to our students — especially those whose cultures have been marginalized in history books for years.

 

—Daniel Santos
Middle School Social Studies Teacher, Houston, Texas

The road to freedom hinges on the youth knowing the raw and rugged truth about the systemic ills of this country.

Through truth our young people can imagine and fight for a new world where we are ALL free.

—Tiffany Mitchell Patterson
University Social Studies Teacher Educator, Morgantown, West Virginia

If I wanted to teach mythology, I would have become an English teacher.

I can’t believe we have to defend the importance of telling the truth.

I respect and trust my students enough to not feed them lies, misinformation, or oversimplified narratives.

—Matt Dale
High School History Teacher, Lake Elsinore, California

To think children are not aware of the inequalities that exist in their everyday lives is ignorant and insulting.

Parents and educators have a duty to help them understand what they see, what they hear, and what they experience.

Hiding from the ugly truth does not make it go away but only serves to create a citizenry that is ill-equipped for fighting to change it.

A calculated attempt to weaken the populace through misinformation and ignorance is in direct opposition of what a representative government should be and should not be tolerated.

—Stephanie Green
Elementary School Art Teacher, San Antonio, Texas

Censoring history, and hiding truths is an incredibly dangerous deed in any case. But in public schools? It undermines our entire goal: to liberate all American youth through knowledge and critical thinking skills.

—Natalie Cardenas
High School English Language Arts Teacher, Avondale, Arizona

As an educator who has previously worked in K-8 schools and who now serves his Philadelphia community through stewarding the oft-ignored but deeply-reverberating impact of Paul Robeson, I know that teaching the truth, regardless of the law, points our way to freedom.

In paraphrasing the words of Robeson: The [educator] must elect to fight for freedom or slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative.

—Christopher Rogers
Program Director, The Paul Robeson House & Museum; Curriculum Committee Co-Chair, Black Lives Matter at School, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

My students are brilliant and powerful.

Their history is their birthright. I will not rob them.

The future is theirs to shape.

—Guadalupe Ramirez
High School English Language Arts Teacher, Munster, Indiana

I’m willing to die on this hill. I cannot meet benchmarks for US History or Civics if we remove all discussion about “racial bias,” as the new legislation is worded in Florida.

How can I teach the Civil War, Emancipation, or the 13th, 14th, 15th amendments without discussing racial motivations?

—Jeri Shaffer
Middle School Social Studies Teacher, Cantonment, Florida

Teaching historical facts is a way to repair and create the world we wish to see!

—Bethany Hobbs
High School English Language Arts Teacher, Townshend, Vermont

There is no value in erasing historical fact.

To become better citizens of the world, it is imperative to learn the reality of our past and to strive for a more just present.

—Kimberly Leifker
Higher Education Sociology Professor, Nashville, Tennessee

To not teach the truth . . . is to not educate.

—James M. Wallrabenstein
High School Language Arts Teacher, Spokane Valley, Washington

Students deserve to see themselves in the history they learn, as they continue to rewrite it and to add their own narratives.

—Ericka Alfaro
Middle School Social Studies Teacher, Elizabeth, New Jersey

The whole story is so important to understanding who we are and how we got to this point.

And in making the world a better place.

—Wendy Harris
High School Social Studies Teacher, St. Paul, Minnesota

I will not whitewash our history. I will not allow the U.S. government to control our future generations’ thoughts and inhibit their ability to critically analyze OUR history.

The U.S. is an incredible nation, with a past built upon stolen land and the blood of enslaved peoples, a legacy that lives with us today.

The photo is of my mother and me. My mom was an educator for a couple of decades and she 100% agrees with our cause and my statements.

—Jeff Erickson
Middle and High School Social Studies Teacher, Coralville, Iowa

My 7th and 8th graders are smart, perceptive, and caring young people. They don’t want to be fed a whitewashed version of U.S. history.

They want to know the fullness of it, so they can come to a deeper understanding of where we’ve been, and how we can create a more just society and world.

—Greg Michie
Middle School Teacher, Chicago, Illinois

Providing young people with accurate information about this country’s past is the best way to help them form their own opinions about the present and future and realize their own agency in our society.

—Hayley Breden
High School U.S. History Teacher, Golden, Colorado

I teach in Texas and the bill about to become law harms my students. I will continue to teach truth to power because my students deserve to see themselves in history, to know that their ancestors were overcomers, and that they MATTER! To the governor : Too late!

Maybe the governor needs to visit my class to get an understanding of what real teaching looks like. Just in case anyone asks. . . I proudly teach at YWCPA, all day, every day! It is a very sad day in Texas when accurate authentic history is considered a threat to fragile feelings brought on by guilt and ignorance. As educators, we need to stay vigilant and be truth tellers.

—Nelva Williamson
High School Social Studies Teacher, Houston, Texas

I pledge to expose racist mythology in every corner of the curriculum. I pledge to help students identify and expose the racist policies that have led to the deplorable racial disparities in American society.

If our society is to have a more equitable 21st century, all U.S. Americans must be able to contextualize Black suffering and articulate the history of injustice. Much structural change and healing is needed. As history teachers, we have an immense responsibility to confront racism and call it what it is.

—Matt Vriesman
High School U.S. and World History Teacher, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Without teaching un-apologetically honest history and the legacy that it has produced, we cannot complete our national reconstruction.

—Alexandros Acedo
High School U.S. History Teacher, Fresno, California

I have a responsibility to build informed citizens not because they are responsible for the inequality of the systems or the tragedies of the past, but because knowledge is a power that belongs to all children.

Understanding the inequality of the system will help us make a stronger future together.

—Erin McCarthy
Middle School Social Studies Teacher, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I was raised to stand up to bullies. These pieces of legislation are attempts to bully teachers into inculcating a whitewashed view of our country and its past. There is a lot that is right with the United States, and there is a lot that is not. It is our responsibility to share all of that with our students, and to inspire them to embrace the good and change the bad, and the wisdom to tell the difference.

—Kevin Attaway
High School Social Studies Teacher, Madison, Wisconsin

I will not simply comply with racist laws, or be disrespected, dismissed, and traumatized by administrators and political leaders who proudly inflict harm on BIPOC students, families, and educators across the nation.

In the words of Angela Davis, “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”

—Trechiondria Lathan
Elementary School Teacher, Iowa City, Iowa

The teaching of history as a discipline and discourse requires us to have students contend with difficult historical truths that illuminate contemporary realities.

Beyond teaching the content knowledge and skill sets of historical reasoning, we have a moral imperative to courageously leverage what we know about the past, in all its pain, to have students engage in civic reasoning and discourse in order to include their voices and imaginations to help us heal.

—Mark Gomez
High School History & Social Science Curriculum Specialist, Salinas, California

The claim that telling the truth about the United States past — as one that is soaked in colonialism and enslavement, AND collective struggle and abolition — is something ideologically radical is profoundly disturbing.

This nation will not be part of constructing a more just world if we fail to teach our students to think and act in critical and transformative ways in our classrooms and in our communities.

Let’s Keep Tellin’ Truth.

—Edwin Mayorga
Educational Studies and Latin American and Latino Studies Associate Professor, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania

We must continue to work to dismantle white supremacy in our nation. Teaching and learning the truth about its past is one tool toward that end.

—Evan O'Connell
High School Government and U.S. History Teacher, Queens, New York

My students, despite facing racism and threats their entire lives, talk eloquently about their belief in the United States. They do this not in spite of my teaching them the awful and heartbreaking truths of our past, but because of it. Only these state legislatures appear to believe that racism and hate are so intrinsic to the U.S. that you cannot be a true American if you reject them. These legislators are telling on themselves.

—Danina Garcia
High School Literacy and Humanities Teacher, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I refuse to lie to my students. I refuse to White-wash history. I refuse to “make America great again” by ignoring the deeper truths and darker parts of our history. I refuse to ignore the role of racism, sexism, heterosexism, and oppression throughout U.S. history and in current events. The only way to move forward is to educate.

—Nate Merrill
Middle School Social Studies Teacher, Dorset, Vermont

Teaching history is about making connections and helping students explore how we became who we are today. There is no room for lies.

Presenting truthful information to students, along with the tools to debate, evaluate evidence, understand nuance, and listen to others’ point of view is critical for democracy.

—Patricia Roach
Teacher, Flagstaff, Arizona

History is so important, but even more important is the ability to decipher the truth from nostalgia.

My students, mostly young men and women of color, need to know the true story of this country so they can find a way to live in it.

The side that is trying to eliminate the proper and truthful telling of history is only interested in maintaining power. Truth to power is real and I’ll fight for that and continue teaching my students (and my own children and anybody else that will listen) real history as I continue to learn it myself.

—Michael Stewart
High School U.S. and World History Teacher, Flint, Michigan

I feel that my country lied to me when teachers did not disclose the true nature of our history. The history books I had as a student reflected only progress and power, without describing how my country became a power through slavery and other colonial acts.

The men we regard as heroes in our history books are often the ones who brought about the most destruction and pain to others. We owe our children the truth.

—Victoria Hand
Higher Education Professor, Boulder, Colorado

As a teacher, I want to be part of the healing that needs to happen in this country. However, that is not possible unless we honestly examine the nation’s history and collaboratively commit to repairing the trauma of colonialism.

—Christopher Green
Middle School U.S. History Teacher, San Antonio, Texas

I teach math and numbers don’t lie. The playing field is not level and the systems have not treated all people equally. Pretending it is so will not make it so.

—Sharon Kramer
Middle School Math Teacher, New York City, New York

Students need to know historical truths, no matter how uncomfortable or ugly they are. Any attempts by state and national politicians to restrict, silence, or whitewash historical truths must be fought against and resisted — such as attacks on teaching the realities of Indigenous land theft and anti-Black politics that are deeply tangled up with the founding of the U.S.

Until we finally come to terms with the full extent of this history, the deeper social changes we need will remain out of reach. As an educator, I’m committed to doing my part to ensure students learn these hard historical truths.

—Chris Crews
University International Studies Professor, Granville, Ohio

I refuse to teach the narrative that has been created to make it seem like there is only one group that matters and that has made long-lasting contributions to our nation.

Working in a very diverse district, I want my students to know that they matter and they are a part of their country’s history, too.

—KayLee Fredricks
High School U.S. History and Civics Teacher, Wyoming, Michigan

I will not be complicit in the effort to cover up the real history of this nation and the deleterious effects of that history on the peoples it oppresses.

As a teacher it is my duty to teach my students to think reflectively, critically, and creatively about all things. This is especially critical when it comes to the history and present state of the United States. I would be failing them if I did not teach them to ask questions, dig deeper, and uncover the things that we are not so proud of.

A citizenry that cannot see the defects of its nation is helpless in making it a better place for all. We must move forward to build a more perfect union even if it is uncomfortable, embarrassing, and challenging. As with all of life, change can be painful, but it is necessary for progress.

Teachers are meant to teach, and there is no knowledge without honesty, so I will teach with honesty and hope for a better future for my students and my country.

—Sarah Vandre
Elementary School Teacher, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I never learned about Japanese American internment camps in high school even though I live 2 hours from Minidoka.

Japanese internment camps are finally in our standards and my students learned about it this year. They appreciate not being lied to, and like me, they know when they have been deceived. We will not go back. I will not lie to my students. I will continue to teach the truth.

—Mackenzie Smith
High School U.S. History Teacher, Meridian, Idaho

I know how conservative media describes the work we are doing as something negative and something to be feared, causing confusion to the public, including teachers as to what should and should not be taught in the classroom. However, education is not about telling students what to think, it’s helping them develop the skills on how to think critically about the world around them, enhancing their curiosity.

The only way to help students understand the present world is to gain a more accurate understanding of our past. We should ask what stories are missing and why. Who had a voice and who did not? Who did the voices from the past benefit? Who was harmed? The first step in the problem solving process is to define the problem. If you cannot accurately define the problem, then the solutions proposed will not work.

—Heather Smith
Technology Teacher and Equity Liaison, Youngstown, Ohio

Teaching the truth about our country’s history is beyond important and it boggles my mind that we are even debating this. I will always teach my students the truth about our country because everyone has a right to know!

—Lindsey Nordeen
High School Civics and World Geography Teacher, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

As a kid, I was taught a version of history that was void of my people, the injustices we’ve endured, our struggles, and our triumphs.

I refuse to continue this cycle of oppressive education that damages our students’ potential, especially our marginalized students.

—Albert Albanes
Middle School Proyecto Saber Teacher, Seattle, Washington

This laughable attempt to censor knowledge cannot stand. I refuse to sit idly by while the world of alternative facts tries to change reality.

Seeing my students parrot the pledge of allegiance out of a compulsory sense of community, hearing the words “and justice and liberty *for all*” ring so, so hollow . . . to see people putting blinders on with such determination is very problematic, not to mention childish. I encourage all of my fellow educators to read Charles Bukowski’s letter on censorship.

—Ryan Berry
High School Literature Teacher, Atlanta, Georgia

Our children must know the past in order to impact our future.

—Kassi Hall
Literacy and Humanities District Administrator, Indianapolis, Indiana

This is long overdue and needs to happen. The amount of my students who tell me “Why DIDN’T I learn this in school?” “Why did I have to learn this in college?” is unending.

—Lauren Hill
University Professor, Woodbridge, New Jersey

Healing the rifts in society requires empathy, which in turn requires an accurate history of how those rifts came to be. We must face our past in order to create a better future.

—LaDawn Haglund
University Sociology Professor, Tempe, Arizona

I have a responsibility to my students to teach them about the long-standing forces of oppression that continue to shape our country and world today, as well as the ways groups have worked to face head-on and dismantle these forces.

—Lauren Moss
Middle School Social Studies Teacher, Rockaway Park, New York

We cannot provide real and lasting change in our country and communities, if the history behind current systemic problems is not confronted. We have a responsibility to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

—Brittany Huyler
History Teacher, Sunland, California

History is too important to let reactionary politicians control. Our students and nation deserve better.

—Michael Ybarra
High School U.S. History Teacher, Katy, Texas

I’ve always taught the truth regardless of the law or the state curriculum. That’s why I got into teaching history.

—Sulaiman Robinson
Middle School U.S. History Teacher, Bowie, Maryland

It is a sin to lie. When the government creates laws to oppress thought and actions in it oppressive and abusive. I will not sin, be oppressed, or abused. I will not be a part of a fraud.

—Mary Mays-Ridgell
Middle School Library Media Specialist Specialist, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Students need to know how to make the world a better place. If we want things to change we need the next generation to know what’s happening now.

—Emma Niebaum
High School English Teacher Candidate and Librarian, Omaha, Nebraska

Silencing the perspectives and experiences of Black people and people of color, to maintain the status quo, is what white supremacy and the propagation of racist systems looks like.

—Jodi Oliver
High School Spanish Teacher, Sioux Falls, South Dakota

As Kendi says, denial is the heartbeat of racism. It is only through an honest and truthful reckoning with our history that we can choose an anti racist future.

—Lindsay King
Middle School Social Studies Teacher, Corbett, Oregon

Children deserve to know our history and how to prevent it from happening again. Knowledge is power.

—Katharine Schell
Elementary School Teacher, Nampa, Idaho

I will ensure my students are prepared to be highly effective educators, meaning they are well versed in accurate understandings of history and will utilize quality pedagogical practices to ensure all identities are welcomed and accepted and taught within their classrooms.

—Lauren Hermann
Teacher Educator, Columbia, Missouri

I will teach the truth and make my voice heard.

—Tanysha Nunnally
High School Teacher, Atlanta, Georgia

As an educator of ethnic studies, it is so essential that I teach my students the true history of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people in the United States and around the world. I will not stand down as legislators try to hide the truth from our students

—Stephanie Melendez
High School Social Studies Teacher, West Palm Beach, Florida

Our country will not have a chance at health until it faces, accepts, and, ultimately, works to heal from the lie upon which it was founded.

I am responsible as an educator to unwaveringly work toward this end.

—Peter Mishler
English Teacher, Leawood, Kansas

We must tell the truth or we are a part of the crime. If the United States is to be a truly Great America, her sins and the people who are guilty must be known. And repairing the brokenness starts with being truthful, and accountable. Truth has come to you.

—Maurice Muhammad
High School History Teacher, Coldwater , Mississippi

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2 comments on “Teachers Defy GOP Bills to Ban History Lessons

  1. Mary Warren on

    All students need to know the truth about history, So history does not repeat itself. We know better, we do better. Tell the Truth!

  2. Jordan McGowan on

    Learning our true history is vital because it gives us a sense of our true identity and as the Black Panther Party taught us “If you do not have knowledge of yourself and your position in the society and in the world, then you will have little chance to know anything else.”

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