English teachers in American public schools are committed to developing students’ academic and social potential, advancing them along pathways toward college and career readiness, and training them with the necessary critical thinking skills to become participant citizens in a functioning democracy. As the world is rapidly changing, so is our effort to prepare students for it. The very survival of our nation depends on it.
2020 taught us a lot about the consequences of an education that sustains the privilege of whiteness. The overt, physical assault on democracy at the start of 2021 made it abundantly clear. Education, and teaching English, must change.
For decades American schools have chased multicultural education in assemblies, theme months, bulletin boards and posters, and curricula that gets spiced with mini units and titles by or about minority populations. Always the default white privilege stuck.
Counter voices have been there all along. James Baldwin. Paulo Freire. bell hooks. Toni Morrison. Ibram X. Kendi. Count among them now the collective work of Tricia Ebarvia, Lorena German, Kimberly N. Parker, and Julia E. Torres at #DisruptTexts. The Connecticut Council of English Teachers (CTCTE) and New England Association of English Teachers of English (NEATE), affiliates of the National Council of English Teachers (NCTE), stand in support of #DisruptTexts and efforts like theirs to promote literacy liberation for all students through a diversity of literary experiences “inclusive of the rich diversity of the human experience” (disrupttexts.org).
The recent spurious condemnation of #DisruptTexts in The Wall Street Journal is both false and misleading. In fact, the #DisruptTexts team states their position on banning books plainly in their mission statement: “We do not believe in censorship and have never supported banning books” (bold in original). English teachers rely on academic scholarship and crowdsourced organizations like #DisruptTexts to provide contexts for teaching classics like Homer’s Odyssey that honor the students in front of us, speak truth to unchecked privilege, and illustrate the dangers of stories banishing the voices of others through hegemonic values.
CTCTE and NEATE supports #DisruptTexts and antiracist pedagogy. We reject The Wall Street Journal’s implicit endorsement of racialized efforts to attack educational approaches to preserving our democratic republic.