Educators Across U.S. Rally This Weekend to ‘Teach Truth’

by August 27, 2021

WASHINGTON—Educators in more than 115 cities and towns will pledge to “teach truth” about U.S. history this weekend at historic sites across the country.

The Aug. 27 – 29 action comes as state lawmakers introduce bills to ban school curricula that include information about the role of racism, sexism, heterosexism, and other forms of oppression in U.S. history.

Pledge to Teach Truth is a commitment by educators to teach full and accurate U.S. history and current events.

“I believe in the power of youth to create a better world when they are taught the truth,” said Jesse Hagopian, a high school teacher in Washington state, Rethinking Schools editor, and co-editor of Teaching for Black Lives.

“Students come to school with questions about the inequities they see,” he said. “Why are Black kids treated with harsher discipline? Why is there so much police brutality? Why is it so hard to vote? Why are so many people of color dying from COVID? Educators can either deceive students about structural racism, or they can help students better understand the world they live in so that they can change it.”

Actions in communities around the country range from group rallies with speakers to walking tours of local history, as well as individuals taking photos with their pledges at historic sites. A list of locations follows this release.

Pledge to Teach Truth events are being organized by the Zinn Education Project (coordinated by Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change), Black Lives Matter at School, and the African American Policy Forum, who maintain a complete and updated list of events. The events and individual pledges are being staged at historic sites whose stories might be erased from schools under the new teaching gag orders. The Days of Action are endorsed by Learning for JusticeMarch On for Voting RightsRace ForwardNYU Metro Center, the Dignity in Schools CampaignAsian Pacific American Labor Alliance (AFL-CIO), and more organizations.

Measures that would ban teaching about historic racism have been introduced in at least 28 states. Many target curricula offered by the New York Times’ 1619 Project, Southern Poverty Law CenterBlack Lives Matter at School, and the Zinn Education Project.

Educators insist that they cannot teach their students honestly without looking at the historic roots of today’s inequality.

The Pledge to Teach Truth Days of Action occur on the 58th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The Zinn Education Project is a partner with March On for Voting Rights, which is also hosting events this weekend across the United States.

Ursula Wolfe-Rocca, an organizer and curriculum writer at the Zinn Education Project, said that there is a connection between the spate of laws that restrict teachers’ ability to look at the historic roots of inequality and the ongoing struggle for voting rights.

“Since the 2020 election, more than two dozen new laws have passed that make it harder to vote,” she said. “Educators cannot help their students make sense of this wave of voter suppression legislation without introducing them to the longer history of racist disenfranchisement, from Reconstruction to the present.”

Educators committed to teaching the truth are increasingly under attack. A longtime teacher in Tennessee was fired in June after teaching two lessons about racism. The right-wing website The Daily Wire published the names of the thousands of educators who signed the Zinn Education Project Teach Truth pledge, organized by state and community, providing easy access to would-be harassers. A similar database of teachers was posted at the Expose Critical Race Theory website. These McCarthy-like tactics pose a real threat. Teachers have received hate mail, online harassment, complaints to their administrators, and calls for their dismissal.

“As a teacher, I’m working on this event because I believe deeply in the power of education to transform our society,” said Michael Rebne, Kansas City high school science teacher. “Especially in this moment of chaos and crisis we need the truth to anchor us and, in fact, our students are demanding it. I know we need to show our numbers to those who seem to doubt we have the will to stand for racial justice.”

Pledge to Teach the Truth events (details on specific events) will take place in dozens of cities, including the following locations:

Anchorage, Alaska

Mesa, Ariz.

Springdale, Ark.

Bay Area, Calif.

Los Angeles, Calif.

Washington, D.C.

Athens, Ga.

Chicago, Ill.

Portland and Yarmouth, Maine

Annapolis and Severna Park, Md.

Baltimore, Md.

Kansas City, Mo.

Portsmouth, N.H.

Patterson, N.J.

Princeton, N.J.

Trenton, N.J.

Las Cruces, N.M.

Albany, N.Y.

Newburgh, N.Y.

Sag Harbor, N.Y.

Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Greensboro, N.C.

Westerville, Ohio

Youngstown, Ohio

Oklahoma City, Ok.

Philadelphia, Penn.

North Kingstown, R.I.

Columbia, S.C.

Houston, Tex.

Bainbridge Island, Wash.

Pasco, Wash.

Seattle, Wash.

Milwaukee, Wisc.

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