Table of Contents

    Cover Story
  • Free The Green New Deal and Our Schools

    By the editors of Rethinking Schools

    So often, the climate crisis is presented in frightening, threatening terms: rising seas, superstorms, raging wildfires, unlivable temperatures, species extinction, disappearing glaciers, dying coral, climate refugees. These are real. But the paradox is that this dystopian possibility is forcing us to imagine an entirely different kind of society. Schools have a central role to play in devising new alternatives and equipping young people to bring those alternatives to life. This is the work we’ve been assigned.

  • Free Solar Power Comes to Math Class

    By Flannery Denny

    A math educator brings data from a friend’s solar panels — and the story to win them in their community — into her 7th-grade classroom to build a bridge between math and climate justice education.

  • Free "Because Our Islands Are Our Life"

    Column: Earth, Justice, and Our Classrooms

    By Moé Yonamine

    A high school ethnic studies teacher describes how students in the Pacific Island Club used poetry to refocus the narrative surrounding climate justice onto frontline communities.

  • Features
  • Free How We Failed Nigel Shelby and Allowed the Abuse He Endured

    By Maximillian Matthews

    A writer interrogates school culture and our collective role in the suicide of a gay 15-year-old 9th grader in Alabama.

  • Free Creating Bias Detectives, Blowing Up Stereotypes, and Writing Essays that Matter

    By Linda Christensen

    “Part of the work of teaching students to read is teaching them to question not only the written word, but also the author,” Christensen writes in her article about teaching students how to confront writers whose stories erase the full truth and misrepresent people and places.

  • Free Time to Get Off the Testing Train

    By Stan Karp

    While high-profile tests like the SAT are problematic, Karp argues that we need to end the routine standardized tests that plague students and teachers.

  • Free Racial Justice Is Not a Choice

    White supremacy, high-stakes testing, and the punishment of Black and Brown students

    By Wayne Au

    High-stakes tests have not only failed to achieve racial equality in schooling, they’ve also made it worse for students of color.

  • Free "I Can't Make a Teacher Love My Son"

    A Black parent's journey to racial justice organizing

    By Zakiya Sankara-Jabar

    After teachers label her son’s behavior as problematic and try to have him evaluated by a psychologist, a Black parent uncovers why schools fail Black boys and begins organizing her community to challenge practices detrimental to them.

  • Free Making Room for Death

    By Katy Alexander

    Death happens regularly, but a special education teacher describes her own mother’s death to show how schools leave no space for grief and try to hide death from the school community.

  • Free Macaroni Social Justice

    By Ilana Greenstein

    A 3rd-grade teacher uses thousands of pieces of macaroni to facilitate a lesson about fractions and to spur classroom conversations about wealth inequality.

  • Departments Free
    Ed Alert
  • Rethinking Our Classrooms Among Race and Education Books Censored at Illinois Prison

  • The SAT's New "Adversity Score"

    A poor fix for a problematic test

    By Leigh Patel
  • Resources
  • Our picks for books, videos, websites, and other social justice education resources.

Our picks for books, videos, websites, and other social justice resources

Our picks for books, videos, websites, and other social justice resources

Picture Books

The Women Who Caught the Babies: A Story of African American Midwives
By Eloise Greenfield
Illustrated by Daniel Minter
(Alazar Press, 2019)
32 pp.

The Women Who Caught The Babies

Renowned children’s book author Eloise Greenfield opens her latest title with a note to readers: “I want to take you back only as far as the Africa of a few hundred years ago. That’s when millions of Africans were forced from their homelands, brought to America, and enslaved. Some of the enslaved were midwives.” This unique picture book begins with historic background on the work of midwives, written in prose that is accessible to young readers and accompanied by archival photographs. The book then switches to poetry and stunningly beautiful illustrations — with vignettes from lives of midwives during slavery, emancipation, and today. Greenfield closes with a poem about the midwife who “caught” her when she was born, Miss Rovenia Mayo of Parmele, North Carolina.

***

Sing a Song: How “Lift Every Voice and Sing” Inspired Generations
By Kelly Starling Lyons
Illustrated by Keith Mallett
(Nancy Paulsen Books, 2019)
32 pp.

Sing A Song

We should all know the story and words of the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and now thanks to this picture book, we can. Author Kelly Starling Lyons tells the 120-year history of the song through generations of her family who have passed it on — starting with a young girl who learned it in 1900 in Jacksonville, Florida, from her principal (James Weldon Johnson) and his brother. They wrote the song and music that have given strength and inspiration to African Americans through many of the trials and celebrations described in the book — the Great Migration, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement, graduations, and the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC).

***

Carter Reads the Newspaper
By Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrated by Don Tate
(Peachtree, 2019)
36 pp.

Carter

One of the most important advocates for teaching the full story of African Americans in U.S. history was Dr. Carter G. Woodson. He founded Negro History Week in 1926 (which grew into Black History Month), the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), and the Journal of Negro History. He is quoted as saying, “This crusade [to teach Black history] is much more important than the anti-lynching movement, because there would be no lynching if it did not start in the schoolroom.” Carter Reads the Newspaper chronicles Woodson’s early life. As the child of parents who had both been enslaved, it infuriated Woodson that their lives were not included in school books. While working in the coal mines in Appalachia, Woodson was asked to read the newspaper to his fellow miners who were illiterate. They asked lots of questions that led Woodson to conduct research and eventually to pursue higher education, including earning a doctorate at Harvard University. He was the second African American to do so. We hope that this picture book will lead students and teachers to read Woodson in his own words, in particular The Mis-Education of the Negro (1933), which is sadly still relevant today.

***

Curriculum

Amazing Iowa Women
Katy Swalwell
(Raygun, 2018)
67 pp.

Amazing Iowa Women

You don’t have to be from Iowa to find this short book to be an excellent teaching resource. Rethinking Schools contributor and Iowa State University professor Katy Swalwell scoured Iowa history to find women who “shared their skills and talents with others to overcome obstacles and help make the world a better place.” There is Judy Herron Hoit, “amazing inventor,” whose work helping people with disabilities led her to invent Pakkie, a lightweight sling that allows someone to be lifted more easily. Edna Griffin, “amazing civil rights activist,” led sit-ins and other protests against racial segregation. In 1948, the Des Moines Katz Drug Store refused to serve Griffin along with two friends and her young daughter. Fifty years later, the building was named in honor of Griffin. Each biography is brief and lively. Of course, there are “amazing women” everywhere, and this book can prompt similar projects by teachers in every state. Swalwell’s amazingiowa.com website offers additional curriculum ideas and more resources.

***

Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything American History Textbooks Get Wrong, Young Readers’ Edition
By James W. Loewen
Adapted by Rebecca Stefoff
(The New Press, 2019)
282 pp.

Lies My Teacher

The Young Readers’ Edition of James Loewen’s classic text Lies My Teacher Told Me not only imparts vital history left out of textbooks, it also prepares the next generation to be critical readers of the media. What better place for students to develop critical literacy skills than with the textbooks that fill their backpacks every day. Loewen alerts students to the particular types of lies and silences that permeate textbooks and the mainstream media in narratives about race, land, the climate, foreign policy, war, political leadership, and economics. Countless teachers have tossed their textbooks aside after reading Lies My Teacher Told Me. Now younger readers will join the ranks, insisting that they should learn the truth about history and current events outside the textbook.

***

Repair: Redeeming the Promise of Abolition
By Katherine Franke
(Haymarket, 2019)
181 pp.

Repair

Reparations has finally made it into the mainstream. In 2019, Democratic presidential candidates field questions about whether African Americans should receive compensation for the injustice of slavery, Jim Crow, and their modern legacies. So far, these public discussions have been vague, mealymouthed, and unsatisfyingly ahistorical. Not so with Katherine Franke’s short-but-powerful book calling for reparations. Three of Repair’s four chapters take a deep dive into Reconstruction, the era following the Civil War, a key turning point when African Americans were freed, but not yet free, and struggling to be the authors of their own liberation. These chapters emphasize the power and promise of Reconstruction while reckoning with white supremacy’s success in thwarting full emancipation. Franke lays out this history of freedom-lost, finally, to make the case that it levies “moral demands on the present.” Those who have been the beneficiaries of massive transfers of intergenerational wealth, she writes, have “an obligation to disgorge what is truly an unjust enrichment.” Franke writes in refreshingly readable prose that can be easily excerpted for use in high school classrooms.

***

Poetry

Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology
Edited by Melissa Tuckey
(University of Georgia Press, 2018)
460 pp.

Ghost Fishing

We don’t have a language to describe the infinite horror of the environmental collapse we are facing. But: “Poetry has a lot to offer a world in crisis,” writes Ghost Fishing editor Melissa Tuckey. “For centuries poets have given voice to our collective trauma: they name injustices, reclaim stolen language, and offer us courage to imagine a more just world. In a world out of balance, poetry is an act of cultural resilience.” It’s impossible not to find poems in this fine volume that could be used across the curriculum. This is not an “Isn’t nature beautiful!” book. It begins with colonial dispossession, and includes chapters on the environmental crime of war, food and culture, resource extraction, resistance, and the Global South. Although the book features great stylistic diversity, the link between people, power, and nature weaves through the book, as in June Jordan’s “Focus in Real Time”: “Who grew these grains/Who owned the land/Who harvested the crop/Who converted these soft particles to money/Who kept the cash . . .”

***

1919
By Eve L. Ewing
(Haymarket, 2019)
73 pp.

1919

Eve L. Ewing’s latest book of poetry opens with the declaration “This book is a story.” The story is the Chicago Race Riot of 1919, one episode in a national epidemic of white mob violence known as Red Summer that happened 100 years ago. Ewing surfaces the riot’s causes, consequences, perpetrators, victims, and bystanders — with the city of Chicago itself a main character — through photographs, poetry, and excerpts from a 1922 report, “The Negro in Chicago: A Study on Race Relations and a Race Riot.” In “Jump/Rope,” Ewing adopts a classic jump rope rhyme to share the story of Eugene Williams, the Black teenager who drowned after white onlookers threw rocks at him while swimming in Lake Michigan, and whose murder sparked the riot. She writes:

Little Eugene Gene Gene
Sweetest I’ve seen seen seen
His mama told him him
Them white boys mean mean mean

He didn’t listen listen listen
To what mama say say say
Went to the lake lake lake
That July day day day

By the end of the book, the reader has indeed been told a story, one that our students deserve to know and one that our classrooms would be the richer for sharing. 

***
Teaching Issues

We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom
By Bettina L. Love
(Beacon Press, 2019)
192 pp.

We Want To Do More Than Survive

Bettina L. Love’s new book is uncategorizable in the best way possible. It is memoir, history, indictment, textbook, guide, and manifesto. All of these flesh out Love’s central proposition: that those who care about education and social justice would do well to model themselves after 19th-century abolitionists by “demanding the impossible.” She writes, “Abolitionist teaching is the practice of working in solidarity with communities of color while drawing on the imagination, creativity, refusal, (re)membering, visionary thinking, healing, rebellious spirit, boldness, determination, and subversiveness of abolitionists to eradicate injustice in and outside of schools.” Love moves back and forth from specific educational injustices (the glorification of “grit” and other forms of “character education,” for example) to models of activism (Lewis and Harriet Hayden, Ella Baker, Black Lives Matter at School) to her own experiences as a Black student, teacher, and now college professor. Educators who aspire to activism will find inspiration in the pages of this book.

***

About Becoming a Teacher
By William Ayers
(Teachers College Press, 2019)
86 pp.

Ayers

William Ayers is an always-astute writer on the relationship between teaching and society; he is critical, funny, philosophical, poetic, warm. In this compact volume, Ayers takes on essential questions confronting preservice and early-career teachers — for example, Should I become a teacher? How can I get to know my students? What is my role in curriculum-making? How can I create some productive classroom arrangements and a bit of positive forward motion with a group of energetic (or disruptive!) kids? What commitments should I bring with me into the classroom? Ayers asks teachers to figure out “what you’re teaching for and what you’re teaching against.” About Becoming a Teacher would pair wonderfully with Rethinking Schools’ The New Teacher Book.

Reviewed by Bill Bigelow, Deborah Menkart, and Ursula Wolfe-Rocca

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