Table of Contents

    Cover Story
  • Free COINTELPRO: Teaching the FBI’s War on the Black Freedom Movement

    By Ursula Wolfe-Rocca

    Students learn about the FBI’s counterintelligence program of the 1960s and ´70s. They see the roots of Black Lives Matter—and the attacks on it—in the history of Martin Luther King Jr. and Fred Hampton.

  • Features
  • Free ESSA: NCLB Repackaged

    By Stan Karp

    Its total failure and the movement against standardized testing finally brought the demise of No Child Left Behind. But is its successor, the Every Student Succeeds Act, any better?

  • Free Education Under Occupation: East Jerusalem

    An interview with Zakaria Odeh

    By Jody Sokolower

    An on-the-ground account of the impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian children from the perspective of East Jerusalem.

  • Cultivando sus voces

    1st graders develop their voices learning about farmworkers

    By Marijke Conklin

    Emerging bilingual 1st graders research farmworkers by visiting a strawberry farm and reading lots of books. Then they write their own stories.

  • El corazón de la escuela/The Heart of the School

    The importance of bilingual school libraries

    By Rachel Cloues

    A public school teacher-librarian describes a vibrant library program—and exposes the harm when librarians are seen as dispensable and libraries become testing centers.

  • Free El corazón de la escuela

    La importancia de las bibliotecas bilingües en las escuelas

    By Rachel Cloues | Translated By Nicholas Yurchenco

    Una maestra bibliotecaria describe los dinámicos programas de su biblioteca y expone el daño causado cuando se considera a los bibliotecarios como dispensables y a las bibliotecas como el centro de los exámenes.

  • Believe Me the First Time

    By Dale Weiss

    A 2nd grader and a 4th grader share experiences on their paths toward gender identity, then join forces to create and teach a lesson promoting understanding and support.

  • Free Sacrifice Zones

    By Rosemarie Frascella

    An English language teacher uses Naomi Klein’s concept of sacrifice zones—from This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate—to help her immigrant students understand connections between oppression in their home countries and in the United States.

  • Free Zonas de Sacrificio

    Por Rosemarie Frascella | Traducido por Vanesa Ortiz Solis

    Una maestra de inglés usa el concepto de zonas de sacrificio de Naomi Klein, de Esto lo cambia todo: El capitalismo contra el clima, para ayudar a sus estudiantes inmigrantes a entender las conexiones entre la opresión en sus países de origen y en los Estados Unidos.

  • “The Most Gentrified City of the Century”

    By Becky HenkleBerry, Jeff Waters

    Middle school teachers collaborate to help students understand and critique the changes that have taken place in their Portland, Oregon, neighborhood. Their inspired students create an online resource of local history and heroes.

  • Free Prizes as Curriculum

    How my school gets students to “behave”

    By Kelly Lagerwerff

    A paraprofessional exposes the harm of substituting compliance for content at a school for special needs students.

  • Departments Free
  • Boycotting Occupation: Educators and Palestine

    By The Editors of Rethinking Schools
  • Education Action
  • Reining in Military Recruiting

    By Seth Kershner
  • Resources
  • Our picks for books, videos, websites, and other social justice education resources.
  • Good Stuff
  • Memories

    By Herb Kohl



Ethan Michaeli’s The Defender is a beautifully written, passionate account of the history and influence of the Chicago-based African American weekly newspaper the Defender . The first issue was published in May 1905 with a run of 300 copies, and it is still publishing and influencing political events in Black America today.

The founding editor, Robert Abbott, said that a central purpose of the paper was to “expose the atrocities of the Southern system and make demands for justice” and to be a “defender of [the] race.” Most of his early subscribers came from the Black community in the South Side of Chicago, but the paper managed to create a large network of readers in the Jim Crow South, and became essential to thousands of people who participated in the Great Migration to the North.

For years I’ve wondered about the routes of communication within the African American community, outside of the white-controlled media, and a number of answers are provided in this book. It seems that copies of the Defender were bundled up in Chicago and given to members of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. That was A. Philip Randolph’s union, which was almost all African American and involved in the long battle for civil rights. The trains on which the porters worked carried the newspapers south, where they were given to local Black leaders, who spread them throughout their communities. Through the Defender, the North got information about the atrocities in the South, and the South heard news from up North.

This is just one of the dozens of illuminating stories in this special book, which I believe should be part of every U.S. history curriculum.

Now that I’m 78, I have decided to write a memoir. It has been quite a trip, reconstructing my Bronx of the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s. I am currently at the point of graduating from college again.

When I taught kindergarten, I asked my students to tape their memoirs of growing up, and I printed them out as Memoirs of Kindergarteners. Memoirs can be written at any age and then rewritten, as long as we stay alive to our experience. In my life, teaching and writing, and being an activist, father, son, and husband have intersected and spiraled about each other like a strand of DNA. It is my current challenge to make sense of the person who developed in the process.

To prepare, I gathered all the bits and scraps of my life that I had saved and never organized. Along the way, I have rediscovered parts of myself I had forgotten. I also read other people’s memoirs. The best source for this was the list provided in Mary Karr’s delightful and useful book The Art of Memoir. Her list is six pages long and includes more than 200 memoirs. Karr also provides wonderful writing exercises, useful but modest suggestions, and reassuring advice.