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Daily Kos: The Culture Wars Against History and Education


Historians for Peace & Democracy released online a comprehensive digital resource, the Culture Wars Against Education Archive, that contains over 130 documents about the campaign by rightwing groups and politicians to censor the teaching of United States history – and about the growing resistance to that campaign. It consists of a wide variety of official documents, articles, and information about the main antagonists in the current attack on democratic education, this archive is designed to help students and teachers at every level, as well as journalists, politicians, and concerned citizens, educate themselves about the current crisis and find constructive ways to respond to it. It will be updated regularly. Its principal authors include Molly Nolan, Professor of History Emeritus at New York University, Ellen Schrecker, Professor of History Emeritus at Yeshiva University, Andor Skotnes, Professor of History Emeritus at The Sage Colleges, and H-PAD Research Associate Sarah Sklaw.

The multifaceted culture wars against education constitute attacks how history and social studies are taught and written. They are attempts to severely restrict or eliminate teaching about race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and LGBTQ issues. They are an assault on academic freedom in higher education and on professional autonomy and responsibility in K-12 schools. They reveal political efforts to undermine public education in the United States on all levels.  Historians for Peace and Democracy has compiled this archive of materials on the past and present of the culture wars and responses to them. We hope this archive will help teachers and students on all levels educate themselves about the current crisis and find constructive ways to respond to it. The archive provides a variety of resources that will be useful as well for journalists, commentators, politicians, and the general public.  Contents will be updated regularly.

I. Key Statements and Reports by central actors in the struggle against political control of education

American Association of University Professors (AAUP), American Historical Association (AHA), Association of American Colleges & Universities (AACU), and PEN America, “Joint Statement on Legislative Efforts to Restrict Education about Racism and American History,” June 16, 2021: A key document by 4 academic and free speech groups opposing the threatened education gag rules.

African American Policy Forum (AAPF), #TruthBeToldA summary of the campaign against anti-CRT/divisive concepts bills by the African American Policy Forum, a key organization in the fight against this legislation, led by Kimberlé Crenshaw, one of the founders of CRT.  

PEN America, Educational Gag Orders, January 2022: Extensive report covering gag order legislation and the context behind them with excellent links to further reading.

American Association of University Professors (AAUP), “Statement on Legislation Teaching about Race,” Aug 4, 2021: The AAUP defends teaching about race and Critical Race Theory and condemns political interference in curriculum.

American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) & PEN, “Statement by AAC&U and PEN America Regarding Recent Legislative Restrictions on Teaching and Learning,” June 8, 2022: This emphasizes importance of faculty control over educational issues and notes that state control of curriculum may well endanger the accreditation of colleges and universities.

The Education Trust, “U.S. Public Education is Under Attack: It’s Time to Take a Stand,” February 28, 2022: Argues that educational gag orders and book banning are an attack on public education that deprives students of an equitable education.

NAACP, “The NAACP Condemns Anti-Critical Race Theory Bills and Calls for Teaching About American Slavery from a Black Perspective,” December 6, 2021: Argues for the teaching of slavery and race from a Black perspective that emphasizes endurance and resistance.

ALA Statement on Censorship of Information Addressing Racial Injustice, Black American History, and Diversity Education,” August 18, 2021: The American Library Association condemns any censorship of books dealing with race, Black American history and diversity.


II. Educational Gag Orders

PEN American Index of Educational Gag OrdersA comprehensive and regularly updated spreadsheet listing all legislation introduced since January 2021, laws, state policies/executive orders, and live bills.  

UCLA School of Law, CRT Forward Tracking ProjectInteractive map displaying anti-CRT efforts introduced at the local, state and federal levels as part of project to identify, track, and analyze legislative activity restricting access to truthful information about CRT, race, and system racism.

Sarah Schwartz, “Map: Where Critical Race Theory is Under Attack,” Education Week, June 11, 2021: A regularly updated state map identifying which states have introduced bills or passed laws restricting teaching of critical race theory or limiting teacher discussion of racism and sexism.  

Legiscan, National legislative search about “critical race theory, database: Legiscan is an impartial, real-time legislative tracking service for public and government use, links directly to search results for “critical race theory”

Legiscan, National legislative search for “sexuality” and “education, database: Legiscan is an impartial, real-time legislative tracking service for public and government use, links directly to search results including both “sexuality” and “education.” Bills censoring LGBTQ+ issues do not tend to say LGBTQ in the title, rather they use terms like “sexuality” and “age appropriate education.” Viewers will need to manually sort through results to determine which bills are bans.


III. Book Banning

American Library Association, Banned and Challenged BooksInformation and advocacy recommendations by the largest organizations combatting book banning.  

Jonathan Friedman and Nadine Farid, “Banned in the USA: The Growing Movement to Censor Books in Schools,” PEN America, Sept 19, 2022: A comprehensive report on which books are being banned and where and on which groups are the driving force behind book banning.  

PEN America, Book BansPEN tracker of books banned in libraries and classrooms, links to browsable and searchable index of banned books and provides form for reporting a book ban.

Jonathan Friedman, “This Talk May be Banned in Schools,” TEDxKC: Video of talk by PEN’s Jonathan Friedman about book banning. Includes many useful charts and examples of bans.

American Federation of Teachers, “On Books, Literacy and Intellectual Freedom,” February 24, 2022: Resolution by AFT opposing campaigns to ban books and the written word in libraries and schools, affirming collaboration with organizations and unions defending intellectual freedom, and highlighting partnerships of educators, parents, families, and students focused on high-quality preK-12 literacy and language arts.

Carrie Levine, “All the Shelves Would Be Bare,” Portside, Feb. 20 2022: Overview of book banning in key right-wing states and interview with Christine Emeran, the Director of the Youth Free Expression Program of the National Coalition Against Censorship.

John Self, “The ‘dangerous’ books too powerful to read,” BBC, September 21, 2022: This covers the long history of book banning in Europe and the US and details the most banned books since the 1982 inception of  Banned Books Weeks, which occurs every September.

Ishena Robinson, “Anti-CRT Mania and Book Bans are the Latest Tactics to Halt Racial Justice,” An NAACP Legal Defense Fund analysis of book banning as well as attacks on CRT and threats to school staff.

Heather Cox Richardson, “Why Rewriting History Matters: We Cannot Make Good Decisions for the Future with Inaccurate Knowledge,” Milwaukee Independent, July 26, 2021.  Richardson explores the banning of a book about the Alamo and why such bans endanger our present and future.


IV. Analysis - A. General

Ellen Schrecker, “The 50 Year War on Higher Education,”  Chronicle of Higher Education, Oct. 14, 2022. Analyzes the roots of the current war on education to the 1960s and the culture wars of the 1980s and 1990s with particular attention to the roles of Ronald Reagan and Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr.

Coleen Flaherty,  “An Affront to Open Discourse,”  Inside Higher Ed, June 9, 2022: Report on PEN and American Association of Colleges and Universities conference and joint statement on educational gag orders.  Useful overview with links to key documents.

Jon D. Michals and David L. Noll, “Vigilante Federalism,” Cornell Law, Review, 2022: Traces the emergence of vigilante federalism or the creation of private subordination regimes, that devolve and privatize state power and authorize private people and organizations to surveil such groups as teachers, LGBTQ people and doctors. The aim is to implement right-wing agendas.

Ashley L. White, “The State of Education Censorship in Institutions of Higher Ed and Implications for the Field,” NAACP & American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, October 25, 2022: This survey outlining current educational censorship by examining themes underlying proposed and enacted legislation with a focus on institutions of higher education but including implications for K-12.

William Trollinger, “Hijacking History: An Interview with Kathleen Wellman,” Righting America, August 4, 2022:  Wellman is the author of a book on how the Christian Right teaches history and why it matters.


B. Historical Comparisons and Precedents

Ellen Schrecker, “Yes, These Bills are the New McCarthyism,” Academe Blog, Sept 12, 2021: Laws banning teaching of CRT and other “divisive concepts” mark the return of McCarthyism, but with a broader purview than their historical predecessors.

Jonathan Friedman, “Goodbye Red Scare, Hello Ed Scare,” Inside Higher Ed, Feb 24, 2022: Traces the spread of legislation to regulate curriculum from K-12 into higher ed and urges professors and administrators to combat these threats.

David Austin Walsh, “The Last Time Democrats Tried to Combat a Slippery Concept Like ‘CRT’” Slate, Nov 19, 2021: How liberal anti-communists bought into McCarthyism and its lessons for politics today.

​​Emma Pettit, “The Inquisition: State Intrusion on higher ed is nothing new: Decades ago, Florida lawmakers tried to purge campus ‘immorality’,” Chronicle of Higher Education, October 11, 2022: Piece on the Johns Committee in 1960s Florida and its parallels to today.

AskHistorians Podcast, “The Silencing of Anti-Racist Educators in New York City in the Mid-20th Century,” Episode 184, October 21, 2021: Podcast episode featuring historians, including HPAD member Andy Feffer, on attacks on educators in Harlem and Brooklyn who attempted to address racism in NYC’s curriculum and school system and were  targeted by anti-communists.

Timothy Snyder, “The War on History Is a War on Democracy,” New York Times, June 29, 2021: Provocative piece drawing parallels with Stalinist historiography and current Russian memory laws on the one hand and ed gag orders on the others.  Argues cannot understand Holocaust without analyzing systemic racism, nor can one understand contemporary U.S.


C. Critical Race Theory

NAACP Legal Defense Fund, “Critical Race Theory: Frequently Asked Questions:” Conveniently organized, interactive, periodically-updated source on the attack against CRT.

Ideas that make up critical race theory have been around long before it got its name,” National Public Radio, Sept 13, 2022: Kimberlé Crenshaw, a founder of the field of CRT, offers a broad view of it.

Keisha N. Blain, “To Fight Attacks on “Critical Race Theory,” Look to Black History,” The Nation, February 18, 2022: A leading historian of Black American life reviews the role of Black history in undermining attacks on teaching about race.

Rana Jaleel, “Critical Race Theory and the Assault on Antiracist Thinking,” Academe, Fall 2021: A more extended discussion of critical race theory and the development of the attack on it from the AAUP magazine.

Janel George, “A Lesson on Critical Race Theory,” Human Rights Magazine, January 11, 2021: A substantive article from the American Bar Association on the character of CRT, its key principles, the character of the attack on it, its relationship to and interventions in the field.

Tyler Parry, “Critical Race Theory and the Misappropriating of Martin Luther King, Jr.” Black Perspectives, Sept 30, 2021: Argues that conservatives misrepresent MLK Jr.’s thought when they claim he was colorblind and advocated race neutrality.  In fact, King and CRT are close in their analysis of race in the U.S. and the solution proposed.


D. LGBTQ+ Issues

OAH, “Historian Organizations Denounce Second Year of ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bills: Leiglsation in Multiple States Deepens Threat to Inclusive and Accurate K-12 History,” March 8, 2022: Statement by LGBTQ history committees of OAH and AHA denouncing “Don’t Say Gay” bills and legislative assaults on trans kids and their families.

Omar G Encarnación, “Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill is Part of the State’s Long, Shameful History,” TIME, May 12, 2022: Florida bill has made state “ground zero in America’s culture wars.” Critics see bill as attempt to weaponize parental rights to marginalize LGBTQ people.

Gabriel Arana, “The Republican Plot ot Ban LGBTQ History in Public Schools,” The New Republic, June 28, 2021: State bans on teaching LGBTQ history reflect resurgence of culture-war politics and religious right’s moral panic. Bills are connected to other religious exemptions granted by the Supreme Court.

Kalyn Belsha, “‘Am I not allowed to mention myself?’ Schools grapple with new restrictions on teaching about gender and sexuality,” Chalkbeat, April 12, 2022: First hand reports from high school students and teachers on the impact of restrictions on teaching about gender, sexuality and especially LGBTQ issues.

Matt Lavietes, “From book bans to ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, LGBTQ kids feel ‘erased’ in the classroom,” NBC News, Feb 20, 2022: Thorough summary drawing together various attacks on queer kids and teachers and emphasizing their focus on trans students. Highlights role of students in fighting against book bans and lobbying school board members.

Stephen Sawchuk, “What’s Driving the Push to Restrict Schools on LGBTQ Issues?” Education Week, April 19, 2022: Identifies the old fears about LGBTQ people and new political tools behind proposed legislation taking aim at LGBTQ students. Emphasizes long history of push for “parent’s rights” in schools and aggressive new rhetoric about trans students.


E. Public Education

Randi Weingarten and Jonah Edelman, “Extremists Are Using Lies to Undermine America’s Public Schools: We Need to Take a Stand,”  Time, April 29, 2022: The president of the American Federation of Teachers and the CEO of Stand for Children expose the coordinated national campaign of Christopher Rufo, Fox News and right-wig politicians to attack the legitimacy of public education and replace it with a universal voucher system.

Sarah Jaffe, “How the Attack on Teachers Threatens the future of Public Schools,” Rethinking Schools, vol 36, no. 3: Argues that over half a million public school educators have quit since 2020 due not only to the pandemic and ongoing low pay and overwork but also and equally to political attacks, disrespect from parents and politicians and a loss of autonomy in the classroom.

Brian Jones, “Race, class, and the attack on public education: Still separate, still unequal,” International Socialist Review, 2016-17: A useful background article on the attacks on public education that preceded the current culture wars when self-described reformers promoted charter schools, attacked teachers’ unions and claimed thereby to champion racial justice.

Jamelle Bouie, “Democrats, You can’t ignore the culture wars any longer,” New York Times, April 22, 2022:  Argues that educational gag orders and attacks on LGBTQ rights are an attack key public goods and urges Democrats to engage actively to combat them.

Brendan Cantwell and Barret J. Taylor,  “The Right-Wing Attempt to Control Higher Ed: Demolishing Independent Expertise is a Central Goal  of the Republican Party,” Chronicle of Higher Education, Oct. 10, 2022: Traces the proliferating incidences of partisan efforts to erode the independence of higher education institutions, undermine expertise and increase state control of administrations, tenure and curriculum in public colleges and universities.

Heather C. McGhee and Victor Ray, “School is for Making Citizens,” New York Times, Sept 1, 2022: Outlines attack on critical and balanced history education, such as in the Freedom Schools of civil rights era, and how such attacks prevents students from becoming educated citizens and are part of broad effort to create mistrust in public education.


V. Impact: Contemporary Case Studies

A. Teaching about Race and Gender in K-12

Olivia B. Waxman, “Critical Race Theory Is Simply the Latest Bogeyman.’ Inside the Fight Over What Kids Learn About America’s History,” TIME, July 16, 2021: Detailed investigation about how battles around CRT and books played out in one Missouri school district.

Megan O’Matz,  “What Increasingly Partisan and Venomous Wisconsin School Board Races Reveal About American Elections,” ProPublica, April   1, 2022  Analyzes how local conservative activists and national figures like Steve Bannon have transformed Wisconsin school board elections, which previously focused on taxes and teacher pay, into bitter partisan battles over personnel, curriculum and parental rights.

Jeremy Schwartz, “A Push to Remove LGBTQ Books in One County Could   Signal Rising Partisanship on School Boards,” ProPublica, Feb 7, 2022: Reconstructs the years long and successful efforts of far-right Christian conservatives in Hood County Texas to win seats on school and library boards, get books, mainly with LGBTQ themes, removed from school libraries, and harass teachers and librarians until they quit in fear.

Nicole Carr, “White Parents Rallied to Chase Black Educator Out of Town. Then, They Followed Her to the Next One,” ProPublica, June 16, 2022: Traces the successful campaign by white conservatives to fire an experienced Black educator who was hired to direct Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives in the Cherokee County Georgia school district.

Southern Poverty Law Center, “Cousins et al. v. The School Board of Orange County et. al.,” Filed July 25, 2022: SPLC’s litigation on behalf of some Florida parents and children against Florida’s HB 1557, commonly referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which, the complaint argues, violates free speech, due process and equal protection under laws.

Timothy Messer-Kruse, “Anti-Critical Race Theory and Neo- McCarthyism,” Counterpunch, June 18, 2021: Uses the career of Ohio State Representative Sarah Fowler Arthur to illustrate how right-wing conservatives in Ohio are trying (so far unsuccessfully) to revamp the K-12 curriculum by eliminating references to fair play, the common good,  and environmentalism among other terms and labeling the US a constitutional republic not a democracy.

Stephen Jackson, “Standards of Revision: Partisan Politics Comes to South Dakota’s Schools,” Perspectives on History October 26, 2022: Jackson, a history professor, participated in the South Dakota K-12 social studies revision process, helping write a document that incorporated indigenous voices and emphasized critical thinking. The state Dept. of Education and governor first rewrote the report, then appointed a new revision committee with few teachers and produced a third version with no indigenous voices and an emphasis on memorization.

J. David Goodman, “How A Christian Phone Company Became a Rising Force in Texas Politics,” New York Times, Oct 6, 2022: Investigates how the Patriot Mobile phone company became a major funder of conservative candidates for school boards in Tarrant County Texasthey went on to ban books and force out teachers and a principle.


B. Teaching about Race and Gender in Higher Education

Daniel Golden and Kirsten Berg, “The Other Cancel Culture: How a Public University Is Bowing to a Conservative Crusade” ProPublica, June 29, 2022 (cross published as “The Red State University Blues” at Inside Higher Ed): Explores how Boise State University’s administration has changed policies in the face of attacks from the Idaho legislature and school alums.

Josh Moody, A Grab for Power,” Inside Higher Ed, June 6, 2022: Report on proposed Florida legislation to increase state control over public colleges and universities.

Karin Fischer, “A Playbook for Knocking Down Higher Ed: A Decade Ago Wisconsin’s Governor Made Higher Edge a Wedge Issue. Now His Approach has Gone National,” Chronicle of Higher Education, Oct. 18, 2022 (AR):  Analysis of the attack on the budgets, personnel, curriculum and autonomy of Wisconsin’s public universities and colleges by Governor Scott Walker (2011-19), why it garnered so much support and how it has been taken up elsewhere.

Daniel Vock, “GOP furor over ‘critical race theory’ hits college campuses,” Idaho Capital Sun, July 1, 2021: Surveys efforts to ban divisive concepts and CRT and block the hiring of faculty teaching about race in North Carolina, Iowa, Florida, and Kansas.


VI. Educational Labor

Madeline Will, “Teachers’ Unions Vow to Defend Members in Critical Race Theory Fight,” Education Week, July 06, 2021: Report on NEA-AFT statements and actions regarding educational gag orders.

John Nichols, “Randi Weingarten Rips CRT Critics for ‘Trying to Stop Us From Teaching Students Accurate History,’” The Nation, July 9, 2021: AFT President Randi Weingarten’s attack on criticisms of CRT, their meaning, and the reactions to them.

Juan Perez Jr, “Teacher unions push back on debate over critical race theory,” Politico, July 6, 2021: Report on NEA approval of funds to investigate conservative groups that are attacking educators and to publicize accurate information about CRT.

Virginia Myers, “Anti-racist education benefits all of us,” American Federation of Teachers, July 7, 2021: Coverage of event with Ibram X. Kendi and AFT about  the connection between anti-racism and education, and emphasizing  importance of teaching about racism to national healing and progress.

Becky Pringle, “Our children deserve to known the trust. Honest education can’t leave out race and racism,” USA Today, June 29, 2021: Op-ed by National Education Association President and middle school teacher, Becky Pringle, on efforts to deny students their right to truthful and honest education and how this fear mongering is an attempt to district from politicians’ failures to address structural problems in the school system.

Amanda Litvinov, “‘It’s Freedom We’re Fighting For,’” NEA Today, July 4, 2022: NEA Executive Director Kim Anderson explains how the connection between public education and democracy makes educators key to defending social and political freedoms. Calls on educators, students, and parents to counteract efforts to privatize public education.


VII. Right-Wing Cultural Warriors

A. Analysis of the Opposition

James Grossman and Jeremy C. Young, “To understand the history wars, follow the paper trail,The Hill, July 5, 2021: Investigates the individuals and organizations which are writing the anti-CRT and divisive concept bills, the similar language used and the lack of knowledge of local curriculum.

Matthew Cunningham-Cook, “How Wall Street is Funding the Culture War,” The Lever, September 13, 2022: Analyzes the individuals, including hedge fund managers Paul Singer and John Paulson, who sit on the board of the Manhattan Institute, for which Christopher Rufo works, and have donated generously to it.

Edward Graham, “Who is Behind Attacks on Educators and Public Schools,” NEAToday, December 14, 2021: Surveys the small groups who are leading the attack on discussions of race, history, and gender and the conservative funders who support them.

Nancy MacLean, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America (New York: Viking, 2017): MacLean’s 2017 book examines public choice economics and the philosophy of James M. Buchanan to explore the dark money networks behind contemporary conservative politics.

Ralph Wilson and Isaac Kamola, Free Speech and Koch Money: Manufacturing a Campus Culture War (London: Pluto Press, 2021): The ultra-libertarian Koch donor network has prepared and promoted extremist celebrities to manufacture a crisis around free speech on campuses.

John Willingham, “What’s Driving the latest Texas History Wars?” History News Network, Oct. 2, 2022:  For a decade, pro charter school, pro school choice and Christian Nationalist PACs have gained increasing influence on the Texas State Board of Education and blocked any social studies curriculum that proposed critical and accurate history.

Maurice Cunningham, “Koch Connections and Sham Grassroots of Parents Defending Education,” Mass Politics Profs,  April 12, 2021.  Lays out the top down funding and leadership of Parents Defending Education and its close connections with Moms for Liberty and No Left Turn in Education.


B. Organizations and Foundations supporting and funding the culture Wars

American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)

David Armaik, “ALEC Claims Credit for Voter Suppression and Anti-Critical Race Theory Laws at Secret Meeting,” Exposed by CMD, Sept 7, 2021: Report on a meeting of the Christian-right Council for National Policy at which ALEC claimed credit for drawing up laws prohibiting teaching the history of racism, as well as laws enabling voter suppression.

Don Weiner and Alex Kotch, “ALEC Inspires Lawmakers to File Anti-Critical Race Theory Bills,” Exposed by CMD, July 27, 2021: Report on a 2020 ALEC workshop for state legislators, corporate lobbyists, and staff of right-wing institutes and foundations to teach how to draw up bill against teaching about race and gender.

Manhattan Institute

Benjamin Wallace-Wells, “How a Conservative Activist Invented the Conflict Over Critical Race Theory,” New Yorker, June 18 2021: The Manhattan Institute is home to Christopher Rufo, who has redefined critical race theory to serve as a political weapon for the conservative culture war.

Moms for Liberty

Paige Williams, “The Right-Wing Mothers Fueling the School-Board Wars,” New Yorker, October 31, 2022: A detailed reconstruction of the multiple tactics used by Moms for Liberty in a white, affluent suburban Nashville school district to attack a widely used English and Language Arts curriculum, the district superintendent and diversity consultants.

Moms for Liberty,” GLAAD Accountability Project, Succinct overview of the founders, funders, goals and activism of Moms for Liberty by GLAAD which monitors misinformation about LGBTQ people.

Olivia Little, “Unmasking Moms for Liberty,” MediaMatters, Nov 12, 2021: Very thorough analysis of structure of Moms for Liberty and connections to right-wing foundations and GOP.

Tyler Kingkade, “Moms for Liberty’s conservative activists are planning their next move: Taking over school boards” NBCNews, July 17, 2022: Report on the first national summit of Moms for Liberty (195 chapters in 37 states) and the Republican politicians promoting the organization and its agenda.

Laura Jedeed, “Moms for Liberty Has Created Nightmares for Schools Across the Country,” The New Republic, May 31, 2022: Investigates the multipronged Moms for Liberty strategy to shape curriculum and ban books as well as elect right-wing candidates and in the long run, undermine public education by implementing school choice.

Tim Craig, “Moms for Liberty has turned ‘parental rights’ into a rallying cry for conservative parents,” Washington Post, Oct 15, 2021: Uses Brevard County Florida as an example of how the staunchly conservative Moms for Liberty grew by weaponizing parental rights and attacking curriculum, books, and covid policies.

Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR)

Élodie Safaris, “Fair: Intellectuals critical of Wokism Launch a Foundation to Combat ‘Neo-Racism’,” CTRLZ Magazine, March 11, 2021: Explores founders, board of directors, stated goals and methods of FAIR.

Turning Point USA

Jonathan Marks, “Red Scare: A Populist Conservativism that bares an uncomfortable resemblance to McCarthyism confronts colleges,” Chronicle of Higher Education, Sept. 28, 2022 (AW): Turning Point USA is the focus of this analysis of new forms of right-wing campus activism.

Turning Point maintains a “School Board Watchlist,” demonstrating how they are singling out school boards for large and small criticism that they hope will mobilize parents and community members

Hillsdale College

Adam Laats, “How Conservative Colleges Win the Culture Wars: Academic-Freedom Crackdowns get the Headlines but the Real Fight is Elsewhere,” Chronicle of Higher Education, Oct. 24, 2022: Examines how Hillsdale College and its Hillsdale 1776 Curriculum has become the leader in providing a conservative, patriotic, Christian version of US history for charter and religious schools and home schooling.

Timothy Messer-Kruse, “The Slippery Matter of ‘Truth’ in Patriotic Education,” Chronicle of Higher Education, August 5, 2021: Analyzes the Hillsdale 1776 Curriculum.


VIII. What Is to Be Done?

A. What Works?

Brendan Cantwell, “The Culture War has Come for Higher Ed,” Chronicle of Higher Ed, July 12, 2021: A plea for college faculty and administrations to acknowledge that  there is a culture war, to tell the truth, defend faculty of color and push back against educational gag orders and attacks on tenure.

Margaret Power, “I teach my students to see the complexity of history,” Chicago Tribune, June 6, 2022:  Relates her experience teaching Latin American History and Women’s Studies at Illinois Tech.

Teachers Refuse to Lie to Students,” Zinn Education Project, Feb 15, 2022: More than 8K teachers have signed the pledge to teach history honesty as an act of resistance to GOP bills. Includes some of the pledges.

Valerie Strauss, “Teachers across the country protest laws restricting lessons on racism,” Washington Post, June 12,2020: Examples of local teachers actions against educational gag orders as well as activism of NEA and Zinn Education Project.

Adrienne Lu, “Education Professors React to Divisive-Concepts Laws,” Chronicle of Higher Ed, April 25, 2022: How Education School faculty are pushing back against educational gag orders.

Tim Walker, “Educators Fight Back Against Gag Orders, Book Bans and Intimidation,” NEA Today, July 28, 2022: Coverage of educators’ responses to legislative efforts to restrict teaching about racism, LGBTQ+ issues and other “divisive concepts,” as well as targeted harassment of educators.

Rachel M. Cohen, “As States Build Barriers to Racial Justice Teaching, Educators Fight Back,” Rethinking Schools, Jan 3, 2022: Teachers pledging to resist bills and doubling down on efforts to learn and teach about race. National day of action on June 12. Different rallies held. Provides some background/antecedents. Educators who worked to support local teachers threatened by media attention/attacks. Educators creating study groups and online classes and professional development.

Nick Anderson and Susan Svrluga, “College faculty Are Fighting Back Against State Bills on CRT,” Washington Post, February 19, 2022: Discusses faculty senate resolutions against state legislation against CRT in Texas, Alabama and Ohio.

Kathryn Joyce, “Fighting back against CRT Panic: Educators organize around the threat to academic freedom,” Salon, March 7, 2022: Interview with AAPF’s Sumi Cho covering the Truth be Told initiative, including the model faculty resolution.

Leila Rafei and Eva Lopez, “School Is For Learning—Including About Race and Gender,” ACLU, November 19, 2021: Students and teachers in Oklahoma sued state government about for its censorship bill (HB 1775).


B. How to Get Active

Zinn Education Project, “Right-Wing Campaign to Block Teaching for Social Justice,” September 30, 2022 (regularly updated): Suggests multiple ways to respond.

African American Policy Forum “#TruthBeTold Campaign,” Information on their academic freedom petition and faculty senate resolutions campaign including information about how to get involved.

Timothy Messer-Kruse, “How to Sink Anti-CRT Bills,” Chronicle of Higher Ed, Feb 16, 2022: Argues that the accreditation process can be used to combat anti-CRT bills.

Jennifer Ruth and Ellen Schrecker, “Faculty, You Have Power! Use It!,” Academe Blog, February 14, 2022:  Faculty are not powerless in responding to crises of the academy. In addition to lobbying, emailing politicians, and writing op-eds and letters, faculty need to take collective action to demonstrate united opposition to interference in academic freedom.

NEA EdJusticeOffers ways to get connected and engaged to advocate for racial and social justice in schools and communities.

Racial Justice in Education Resource Guide,” Jan 2021: Provides resources about and practical ways to sharpen teachers analysis of race, and effectively discuss race in the classroom.

NEA, “Bargaining for the Common Good”: Outlines how union members can unite with community people and organization if they bargain collectively  for such things as smaller classes, equitable disciplinary policies and less testing.

Historians on Call: Historians-on-Call is a joint campaign with Historians for Peace and Democracy and the Zinn Education Project in which scholars volunteer to act in solidarity with local educators, librarians, and school board members under fire due to anti-CRT/divisive concepts campaigns and legislation.

Eric Jotkoff, “NEA President: ‘Students, Parents, Educators and Public Schools Were the Big Winners in the Key Races of the 2022 Elections,” NEA, November 9, 2022: Press Release from NEA President emphasizing that midterm election results favored candidates who provided a clear and positive message about public education and rejected extremist politics pushing culture wars in schools.

The Authors’ Guild, “Join Us to Stop Book Banning,” Dec 3, 2021 (updated May 10, 2022):Provides sample letters to school and library boards and local and state representatives as well as templates for op-eds to oppose book bans.

AAPF, Books Unbanned: From Freedom Riders to Freedoms ReadersThe African American Policy Forum campaign to combat book banning included a Books Unbanned Bus Tour through the Midwest and South, cosponsored by the Transformative Justice Coalition and Black Voters Matter. The AAPF is now setting up Books Unbanned Book Clubs.

Janelle Ross, “A visit to the Banned-Book Bus with a Scholar Who Helped Develop Critical Race Theory,” TIME, October 28, 2022 (AR): Professor Kimberle Crenshaw discusses the Books Unbanned Bus Tour and the attacks on education that make it so important.

Marina Touré, “Brooklyn’s Library Seeks to Slip Books through Red State Bans,” Portside, Sept. 28, 2022: Report on Brooklyn Public Library program that lends thousands of ebooks to students and adults in places where they are banned.

Combatting legislative proposals for post tenure faculty review

Florida Board of Governors Notice of Proposed New Regulation,” November 9, 2022: Proposal from Florida Board of Governors for a problematic and politicized Post-Tenure Faculty Review

UFF’s Talking Points for BOG Regulation 10.003 – ‘Post-Tenure Faculty Review,”  Faculty Union’s talking points for combatting proposal


C. Resources for Teaching and Activism

PEN America, Campus Free Speech GuideThis guide provides resources for administrators, faculty and students on issues ranging from academic freedom, discrimination and harassment and hateful speech  to invited speakers and campus protests.

PEN America, Free Expression Advocacy InstitutesPen offers online multi-week programs to help student understand and act in defense of free expression.

American Historical Association, Teaching Resources for HistoriansProvides classroom materials for K-12 and higher ed organized by topic (e.g. local history, empire, political history, food and food ways), by resource type (e.g. digitized primary sources and teaching modules,) and by approaches to teaching (e.g. globalizing the US survey and supporting K-12 teaching).

American Historical Association, “Teaching History with Integrity,” : The largest US professional association of historians provides resources and support for history educators facing intensifying controversies over the teaching of US history.

American Historical Association, “A Snapshot of the Public’s Views on History,” August 30, 2021: Summary of survey about public attitudes toward what history is and how it should be taught. Full report and data can be downloaded here

Southern Poverty Law Center, Know Your Rights: Students and LGBTQ Rights at SchoolLays out the legal rights which LGBTQ students have, explains how to document and seek redress from a school if they are violated and provides a link to the SPLC if further action is needed.

Zinn Education Project, Teaching MaterialsProvides an abundance of resources for all periods of US history, covering multiple themes and divided by grade levels. Resources include articles, books, audio, websites,  and films as well as teaching activities.

National Council for the Social StudiesProvides basic information on how social studies educators can engage in activism.

UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic EngagementProvides research and resources relating to free speech as well as fellows working on this issue.

Learn from History,. Provides guilds for school system leaders and school board members on how to combat misinformation and defend the accurate teaching of history and social studies.

Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, FIREWhile FIRE generally defends conservatives, it protested some attacks on academic freedom and on public libraries.

Jeffrey Sachs, “Everyone’s Wrong about FIRE: The Organization to Defend Campus Free Speech has its Problems, but There not What Critics Think,” Chronicle of Higher Education, Nov. 30, 2022: Sachs criticizes FIRE for endorsing curbs on academic freedom by religious schools, producing a misleading free speech ranking of schools, failing to protest legislative interference in colleges and universities.

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Alan Singer

Alan Singer is a professor of Teaching, Literacy and Leadership and the program director of graduate programs in Social Studies Education. Dr. Singer is a former ...