Although the coronavirus’s threat to the safety of our schools is dire, there is another threat that should not be ignored. Right wing politicians and media outlets are attacking educators’ most basic responsibility — to teach young people accurately and truthfully. Officials in at least 27 states have sought — and in many cases succeeded — to enact restrictions on what teachers can say about history and current events.
But they face steep consequences for doing so. Multiple right wing websites have listed the names of those who signed the Zinn Education Project’s “pledge to teach the truth,” along with the communities in which they work. Their goals are clear: to incite harassment and spread fear.
These hit pieces (like the one below) are having an impact.
In the last weeks, we have heard dozens of stories from teachers across the country. From personal attacks on social media to calls for their investigation and removal at school board meetings, from smears in local media to in-person harassment at back-to-school nights, teachers are under attack.
As one teacher wrote, “This is modern-day McCarthyism.”
And yet teachers and students are showing up, for each other, and for education.
Right now, in classrooms across to the country, during the first weeks of school, they are learning each other’s names and stories; they are becoming experts at identifying smiles (and stifled yawns) behind masks and at how to convene a small group safely; they are arguing over the morality of pineapple on pizza and classifying songs as bops or flops; they are writing and sharing poems to make sense of the tumult of the last year; they are drawing self-portraits to adorn classroom walls.
All of this to lay the foundation for the year’s inquiry into history, literature, storytelling, science, mathematics, dance, music, and more. It is this energizing space of community, collaboration, and learning that the Right seeks to attack, with authoritarian legislation and a campaign of harassment.
We must not let them.
If you are a teacher, let us know if you receive any repercussions for signing the pledge. And also contact your local teachers’ union. Both the AFT and NEA have committed to defend teachers who pledge to #TeachTruth.
If you are not a teacher, please speak out in defense of those who are.
The right wing attacks are well-funded and getting an out-sized amount of media attention. Write an op-ed or letter to the editor, express your support on social media, and/or go to your local school board meeting.
Don’t let today’s McCarthyism go unchecked.
Defend Teachers from McCarthyism
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