Table of Contents

    Free Editorial
  • Free Guns Out of Our Schools, Propaganda Out of Our Classrooms

    By the editors of Rethinking Schools

    There’s much that we as educators can do to combat gun violence and get guns out of our schools. One of our roles as teachers is to guide students to examine the roots of an issue. When we talk about the Bill of Rights and the roots of the Second Amendment, we can expose the popular mythology that surrounds it — that this is somehow about individuals resisting government oppression — and lay out its true intent: to defend and deepen white supremacy.  We must also lead the charge against programs like the NRA's Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program that normalize guns and gun violence.

  • Cover Story
  • Free The 2018 Wave of Teacher Strikes

    A Turning Point for Our Schools?

    By Stan Karp, Adam Sanchez

    The wave of struggles sweeping through the United States are more than “red state” revolts. They are rebellions against the austerity and privatization that has been driving federal and state economic policy for decades. The dynamics and political landscape are different in each state. However, almost all of the states where statewide actions have occurred are right-to-work states, which have seen the steepest cuts in school funding and sharpest erosion of teacher pay and benefits. These states are less likely to have collective bargaining rights and local district contracts. This puts more focus on state budgets and state decisions about healthcare and pensions, and encourages statewide action focused on the legislature. Consequently, many of the walkouts have been more akin to mass political protests seeking broad changes in public policy. But other common factors underlying these grassroots protests are likely to keep rebellion spreading to “purple” states like Colorado (where there was a walkout in April) and North Carolina (May) and beyond. Almost everywhere in “red states” and “blue states” alike, budget and tax policy has been used to erode social services, shrink public space, undermine union power, and transfer wealth upward, all the while making the lives of working people harder.

  • Issue Theme: Teachers Rise Up
  • Free Transforming Teacher Unions in a Post-Janus World

    By Bob Peterson

    Bob Peterson analyzes the Janus decision's impact on teacher unions, talks with union leaders from across the country about how they are responding to it, and argues that the damage of the decision can be countered through the upsurge of progressive activism engendered by the victory of Donald Trump.

  • Free A Hurricane in the Classroom

    Inside the Schools Ensnared in Puerto Rico’s Privatization Fever — and How Its Teachers Are Fighting Back

    By Kate Aronoff

    SPECIAL REPORT: Education “reformers” are using the disaster in Puerto Rico to close hundreds of public schools and convert much of the school system to charters. But teachers, parents, and students are fighting back.

  • Features
  • Free Howling at the Ocean

    Surviving My First Year Teaching

    By Jaydra Johnson

    A first-year teacher struggles with what it means to be a social justice educator.

  • Free Seeing Ourselves with Our Own Eyes

    By Katy Alexander

    A special education teacher uses poetry to help her middle school students write their own narratives and celebrate themselves.

  • Free How My 4th-Grade Class Passed a Law on Teaching Mexican “Repatriation”

    By Leslie Hiatt

    How 4th-grade students in Southern California were helped by their teachers to develop curriculum surrounding the mass deportation of U.S. citizens of Mexican heritage in the 1930s and pass a law to investigate what happened.

  • Free Sorry Not Sorry

    Reckoning with the Power and Limitations of an Apology to Native Hawaiians

    By Ursula Wolfe-Rocca

    A high school teacher uses the #MeToo movement and students’ own experiences with apologies to interrogate the government’s 1993 apology to Native Hawaiians for the 1893 overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai'i.

  • Free Pushing Past Hate, Pushing Past Paladino

    How One Community Organized for Racial Justice and to Remove a School Board Member

    By Kate Haq, Alexa Schindel

    Trump supporter Carl Paladino’s racism, misogyny, and transphobia galvanized community members to oust him from the Buffalo School Board. Their struggle also laid the groundwork for new coalitions and progressive change.

  • Departments Free
  • Our picks for books, videos, websites, and other social justice education resources.
  • Commentary
  • Teaching the Truth About Climate Change Is Up to Us, Because Textbooks Lie

    Column: Earth, Justice, and Our Classrooms

    By Bill Bigelow

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

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


The Inheritance
By Christine Sleeter
(Sleeter Publishing, 2018)
226 pp.

The Interitance

We need to “learn to stop acting like a colonizer.” This is the challenge Christine Sleeter poses for teachers who are not Indigenous in her page-turning second novel. Denise Fisher is a white 4th-grade teacher wrestling with her curricular and financial responsibility to address the dispossession of Indigenous peoples in the United States — a dispossession, she discovers, from which some of her ancestors directly benefited. California’s traditional 4th-grade curriculum includes the study — and too often the racist celebration — of the Spanish missions. Denise struggles with how to make her teaching more responsive to the perspectives of the Ohlone people, indigenous to San Francisco’s Bay Area, and at the same time she wonders how to handle privileges she inherited but didn’t earn. “It sounds like you’ve gone from not seeing us, to seeing us,” Martina Soto, an Ohlone tribal member, tells Denise. “Believe me, that’s an important step. We are visible, once you start to see us and pay attention.” The Inheritance is a warm and lively journey through the ethical minefield of a society made unequal by racism, theft, and violence. Oh, but there is romance, too.


Betty Before X
by Ilyasah Shabazz, with Renée Watson
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux — BYR, 2018)
256 pp.

Betty Before X

In a recent article in The Nation magazine, Janet Dewart Bell reminds us of the women, unsung and unheralded, who made the Civil Rights Movement possible. In this fictionalized biography of Dr. Betty Shabazz, Ilyasah Shabazz, the daughter of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz, and award-winning novelist, Renée Watson, provide a glimpse into the political awakening of Shabazz’s mother. In this middle-grade novel/biography, Betty is growing up during turbulent times in 1940s Detroit. As she struggles to reunite with her mother as well as with the racial nightmare of being Black in the United States, Betty finds hope in church and organizing. She joins the Housewives’ League, which supports Black businesses. This engaging coming-of-age story demonstrates how we can remain hopeful during hard times by focusing on Shabazz’s advocacy for civil rights. “It is my hope that by reading my mother’s story,” Shabazz writes in an author’s note, “young people who may be feeling abandoned or neglected, fearful or hopeless, anxious or unsure, will find inspiration.”


The Journey of Little Charlie
By Christopher Paul Curtis
(Scholastic Press, 2018)
256 pp.

Journey Little Charlie

Twelve-year-old Little Charlie is from a poor white family in South Carolina in 1858. In order to pay off his parents’ sharecropping debts, he works for a slave catcher. Christopher Paul Curtis paints a picture of the grinding, hopeless poverty of the white family and the unspeakable torture carried out against enslaved African Americans. The richly written story is filled with tension as Charlie and the slave catcher head to Detroit to find and kidnap a Black family who escaped slavery. Without revealing the ending, this book is an extraordinary resource for making it clear that slavery was state-sanctioned terrorism, that Black families used every means imaginable to secure freedom for themselves and most of all for their children, and that the Fugitive Slave Law obligated all whites to take part. The protagonists cross into Canada, introducing the impact of the Fugitive Slave Law on the Underground Railroad, life on the border of the two countries, and the role of abolitionists.

Picture Books

Trailer Park/Parque de Remolques
By J.C. Dillard; illustrated by Anna Usacheva; translated by Madelin Arroyo Romero
(Hardball Press, 2017)
41 pp.

Trailer Park F

Robert’s dad loses his job and the family is forced to leave a more comfortable neighborhood to live in a trailer park. Robert is distressed and contemptuous of their new home: “This isn’t a real neighborhood.” But Jessie, the girl next door, reaches out to Robert and draws him into a world of play and adventure that he had initially missed. Trailer Park/Parque de Remolques is a poignant and hopeful story, with evocative watercolor illustrations that capture the racial diversity and vitality of Robert’s new neighborhood.


A Different Pond
By Bao Phi
Illustrated by Thi Bui
(Capstone Young Readers, 2017)

A Different Pond

Spoken word poet and community activist Bao Phi and graphic novelist Thi Bui tell the story of a young boy waking up early to go fishing with his father at a pond in Minneapolis before his father goes off to work. This is not a tale of a summer fishing trip, but rather demonstrates the reality of many immigrants struggling to feed their families. Fishing is not a sport; it is necessary for survival. During their lovely pre-dawn visit to the pond, Phi’s father tells him about fishing in Vietnam, but the reader also meets other early morning people during the edges of the day. While this picture book is a loving story for early readers, it can also be a mentor text for older readers who want to write about pivotal and ordinary moments with their families that describe one event, but also illuminate larger themes.


By Matt de la Peña
Illustrated by Loren Long
(Putnam, 2018)
23 pp.


In this picture book, Matt de la Peña, best known for his award-winning young adult novels, has written a love poem to his daughter. Loren Long’s illustrations bring the poem to life in trailer parks and concrete parks with summer sprinklers, with pianos and stairs and babies and parents and men on benches — and grandmother stilling a child with her oven mitt. Love is a celebration of love within a family but also the love we find in the sounds of the city, the burned toast a brother made. “Love, too, is the smell of/crashing waves, and a train/whistling blindly in the distance,/and each night the sky above your/trailer turns the color of love. . . . And it’s love in the made-up stories your uncles tell/in the backyard between wild horseshoe throws.” But Love doesn’t shy away from heartbreak — the loss of love, the breakup of a family. While there is much that a young child might take away from the book, we urge teachers to use it with older students to find the ways that love emerges and disappears in their lives. Once in a while, it is necessary to remind students of the beauty that exists alongside the tragedies. The world can be a hard and scary place, especially for young people who don’t have the long miles of age to see that things can get better, so on occasion, we need to take class time to ponder moments of joy; we need to stop and remind ourselves of the beauty and solidarity that surrounds us.


Teaching Climate Change to Adolescents: Reading, Writing, and Making a Difference
By Richard Beach, Jeff Share, and Allen Webb
(Routledge and National Council of Teachers of English, 2017)
148 pp.

Teaching Climate Change

Too often, climate change education is regarded as the responsibility of science teachers, and occasionally of social studies teachers. In Teaching Climate Change to Adolescents, Richard Beach, Jeff Share, and Allen Webb argue that it is the urgent responsibility of English teachers to help students think critically about, and take action on, “the issue of our age, climate change and environmental justice.” The authors lay out compelling arguments for why that is the case, but perhaps most significantly, they offer readers a treasury of novels, nonfiction books, stories, films, and teaching activities that show how to bring climate issues to life in the language arts classroom. An entire chapter focuses on “Literature and the Cli-Fi Imagination,” offering valuable suggestions. A chapter on “Writing About Climate Change” features a quote from the writer Amitav Ghosh, who describes a time when “most forms of art and literature were drawn into the modes of concealment that prevented people from recognizing the realities of their plight.” That pretty accurately captures the conventional curriculum. Through classroom examples and resource suggestions, Teaching Climate Change to Adolescents offers teachers tools to cut through those modes of concealment.


Teachers as Allies: Transformative Practices for Teaching DREAMers & Undocumented Students
Edited by Shelley Wong, Elaisa Sánchez Gosnell, Anne Marie Foerster Luu, and Lori Dodson
(Teachers College Press, 2018)
200 pp.

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In the first chapter of Teachers as Allies , Shelley Wong and Jennifer Crewalk, with Rodrigo Velasquez-Soto, admit that “It is not easy to become an ally of an undocumented student,” and announce that “This book was written for educators who want to be effective advocates for undocumented students but are in need of information, analysis, and strategies.” This unique volume is a treasure trove of dilemmas, stories, teaching frameworks, and practitioner wisdom. One chapter, “Using Critical Narratives for Relationship Building,” seeks to “balance the critical need for student disclosure with the students’ safety” — especially when to speak openly about one’s life can put students at risk of deportation. The chapter concludes with a moving personal narrative by Nancy Gutierrez about arriving in the United States as a toddler with her mother, who carried a 7-month-old daughter through the Sonoran Desert. Teachers as Allies is a welcome rebuke to the Trump administration’s racist, xenophobic hostility toward undocumented immigrants.

Reviewed by Bill Bigelow, Linda Christensen, and Deborah Menkart