Table of Contents

    Cover Story
  • Free Editorial: Defending Immigrant Students — in the Streets and in Our Classrooms

    By the editors of Rethinking Schools

    It has always been an educator’s responsibility to act in solidarity with vulnerable students. But with President Donald Trump’s September declaration that he will end DACA, we are called on to be more audacious, more resolute, and more imaginative in our solidarity with the 800,000 undocumented young people who now face a frightening uncertainty about their future in the United States.

  • Free Rethinking Islamophobia

    A Muslim educator and curriculum developer questions whether religious literacy is an effective antidote to combat bigotries rooted in American history

    By Alison Kysia

    The increasing violence against Muslims, Sikhs, South Asians, and others targeted as Muslim, suggests we, as Americans, are becoming less tolerant and need educational interventions that move beyond post-9/11 teaching strategies that emphasize our peacefulness or oversimplify our histories, beliefs, and rituals in ways that often lead to further stereotyping.

  • Inclusivity is Not a Guessing Game

    By Chelsea Vaught

    An elementary teacher tells how she works to include her Muslim students in the life of her classroom. "We can use or create curriculum and projects that allow students to learn about and incorporate their culture and religious practices if they want to. We can be deliberate in including, making space for, and recognizing our students in all aspects of their identities. Making schools inclusive doesn’t have to be a guessing game."

  • Features
  • Free Teaching SNCC: The Organization at the Heart of the Civil Rights Revolution

    By Adam Sanchez

    Teaching the history of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee helps students see the Civil Rights Movement as being fueled by thousands of young people like themselves instead of a few charismatic leaders. "Without the history of SNCC at their disposal, students think of the Civil Rights Movement as one that was dominated by charismatic leaders and not one that involved thousands of young people like themselves. Learning the history of how young students risked their lives to build a multigenerational movement against racism and for political and economic power allows students to draw new conclusions about the lessons of the Civil Rights Movement and how to apply them to today."

  • Free Elementary Student T-Shirt Workers Go on Strike

    By Michael Koopman

    An elementary school teacher uses his students’ T-shirts to launch a lesson about child labor, basic economics, factories, unions, and strikes. "When I was a child, I remember 'playing pretend' with my cousins. We could be anyone we imagined, and in that moment, we were those people. Why not use that energy and imagination as a resource? When we use our imagination to walk in another’s shoes, that’s where real learning begins."

  • Free It's Imperialism.

    How the textbooks get the Cold War wrong

    By Ursula Wolfe-Rocca

    A high school teacher critiques the textbook treatment of the Cold War and U.S. imperialism. She describes her approach to the “curricular conundrum” that the Cold War presents because it lasted so long, and was so far-flung. ""If we are ever to create a different world, one in which the United States does not cast an outsized and militarized shadow across the globe, we need our students to understand how and why that shadow was created in the first place."

  • Jailing Our Minds

    By Abbie Cohen

    An education researcher explores “no-excuses” discipline policies and the rate of out-of-school suspensions at charter schools in Denver and around the nation. "Democracy is healthiest when our educational institutions reflect our best virtues — creativity, joy, and growth. We must strengthen our oversight over no-excuses charter schools, thereby ensuring that no child in that city — or our country — is subjected to policies that could have been culled from one of Denver’s neighboring prisons."

  • Fourteen Days SBAC Took Away

    By Moé Yonamine

    A teacher wrestles with her frustrations with having to administer a standardized test that she wouldn’t even allow her own daughter to take. "Fourteen days I enforced SBAC testing to be the priority of our classroom learning — or rather, our classroom “unlearning.” Fourteen days SBAC took away."

  • What About the Students Who Are Not Labeled as "Gifted"?

    By Kipp Dawson

    A middle school English teacher calls for an end to separating students into groups of “gifted” and “not gifted” and argues that labeling students damages them — and us. "We are going down too many roads that push too many of our children aside, reinforcing the worst of our society’s racist and classist limitations. Let us push back hard."

  • Resources
  • Free Our Winter 2017 Picks for Books, Videos, Websites, and Other Social Justice Education Resources

    By Bill Bigelow, Deborah Menkart, Adam Sanchez, Ursula Wolfe-Rocca
  • Departments Free
    Ed Alert
  • “This Is Not Happening Without a Fight”

    Puerto Rico’s teachers battle privatization after Hurricane Maria

    By Ari Bloomekatz
  • Education Action
  • Student Athletes Kneel to Level the Playing Field

    By Jesse Hagopian

Our Winter 2017 Picks for Books, Videos, Websites, and Other Social Justice Education Resources

Our Winter 2017 Picks for Books, Videos, Websites, and Other Social Justice Education Resources


A Beautiful Ghetto
By Devin Allen
(Haymarket Books, 2017)
124 pp.

A Beautiful Ghetto

Devin Allen’s A Beautiful Ghetto is more than a collection of award-winning photographs. Allen’s book documents Black life in Baltimore before and after the police murder of Freddie Gray and the uprising it produced through short essays, poetry, and stunning images. The book is a worthwhile addition to any classroom attempting to learn from the Black Lives Matter movement and about Black life today. Several essays, including Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s “The Boisterous Demand of Black Baltimore,” give essential background for those less familiar with the 2015 uprising in Baltimore. The poetry by Tariq Touré that dots the book — in particular “Poverty Is Violence” and “April 27th,” which focuses on Freddie Gray’s murder — are worth analyzing with students. But most of all, the incredible photographs by Baltimore native Devin Allen are powerful resources for the classroom. The photographs are split into two sections: “Ghetto,” which highlights “a beauty that is often overlooked and unappreciated” in Baltimore’s Black community, and “Uprising,” which documents the Black revolt after Freddie Gray’s murder. A gallery walk of photographs from the book would produce deep discussion in many classrooms.

Electric Arches
By Eve L. Ewing
(Haymarket Books, 2017)
94 pp.

Electric Arches

“Every story in it is absolutely true.” This is from Eve Ewing’s Note of Introduction to Electric Arches, her debut book of poetry, prose, collage, and handwritten notes. Truth in Ewing’s hands is dynamic, including the real and imagined, the past, present, and future, and always, the possibility of a just world. Her “retellings” reflect this dynamism. In one, Ewing shares a painful account of the first time she was called a racial slur. Interrupting this typewritten story with her own handwriting, Ewing leads the reader into an imagined, alternative ending involving a flying bike, a giant net, and a delicious popsicle. In a recent interview, Ewing explained the origin of these retellings. “When I was a kid, whenever I woke up from a nightmare, my mom would ask me to finish it. She’d be like, ‘OK, and then what happened?’ and I would have to come up with some kind of ending, one that didn’t negate the thing that frightened me or the thing that had been scary, but allowed me to reassert some sort of agency.” Ewing’s writing pulses with that agency, as even a small sample of her titles attest: “why you cannot touch my hair,” “I come from the fire city,” “Shea Butter Manifesto,” “what I mean when I say I’m sharpening my oyster knife.” Ewing’s poems of childhood, place, identity, and daily life will serve as rich models for students and teachers pursuing writing that is both relevant and liberating.

The Era of Reconstruction: 1861–1900
By Gregory P. Downs and Kate Masur
(The National Park Service, 2017)
157 pp.

Era Of Reconstruction

The Era of Reconstruction: 1861–1900, published by the National Park Service, is a useful resource for teachers and students. The majority of the booklet is an impressive bottom-up overview of the Reconstruction era broken into six major themes. If the textbook coverage of Reconstruction was as good as the National Park Service’s, students would learn a more complete and relevant history of the era. The booklet’s first four parts include sections that would be worthwhile to pull out for use in the classroom. In particular, the introduction is one of the best short overviews of Reconstruction that we’ve seen, emphasizing the role of ordinary people. Any teacher looking for a short overview of the time period would find this useful. “Part 3: Enfranchisement/New Democracy” is an in-depth look at the expansion of democracy during Reconstruction that could also be used in its entirety in a classroom.

Graphic Novel

When the Rules Aren’t Right: 7 Time Travel Tales of Activism
By Leslie Tolf; illustrated by Sophie Geneva Page, Giselle Sarmiento, Molly Walsh, Alex Graudins, Veronica Agarwal, Haejin Park, and Madeline Zuluaga
(Bardo Press, 2016)
113 pp.

When The Rules

This is a delightful and inviting primer about the importance of organizing in the face of injustice. Told as a time-travel story of Emma, a teenage girl, we begin with a story from her grandmother about a women’s jewelry collective in India. We then travel with her to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in 1911, an ad agency in 1960s New York, a music studio in 1986 Los Angeles, a school in 2012 Chicago, a farmworker community in 1988 McFarland, California, and then back to the present. The book’s message is simple: When you see or experience something that is not fair, you should organize and act. The book’s illustrations are lively and colorful.


Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race
By Beverly Daniel Tatum
(Basic Books, revised and updated: 2017)
464 pp.

Why Are All The Black Kids

When it was first released in 2007, this book radically transformed how countless readers thought and talked about racial identity in the United States. Tatum spent two years on this new updated and expanded edition. She addresses the many setbacks of the past 20 years — the recession of 2008, mass incarceration, police shootings of African Americans, the rollback of Affirmative Action, and the early days of the Trump presidency. To balance these challenges, she ends with an epilogue called “Signs of Hope, Sites of Progress.” This is an ideal text for teacher and/or student reading and discussion groups.

Picture Book

Benny Doesn’t Like to Be Hugged
By Zetta Elliott
Illustrated by Purple Wong
(Rosetta Press, 2017)
42 pp.

Benny Doesnt Like

We learn about the things Benny likes (trains, cupcakes with sprinkles, shirts without wrinkles) from his elementary school friend who narrates the story. Interspersed with those likes are a few things he does not like, such as “being hugged.” Benny is autistic. This book is a wonderful vehicle for ensuring that teachers can address with other students the qualities and challenges autistic children face. The text is very easy for a beginning reader with one sentence per page. The illustrations reflect a diversity of identities including Muslim and Native American children.


Backpack Full of Cash
Producers Sarah Mondale and Vera Aronow
96 min.

Back Pack Full Of Cash

Like many public education supporters, Sarah Mondale and Vera Aronow became increasingly concerned in the last decade about attacks on public schools and teachers. They decided to do something about it. The result, five years in the making, is their documentary, Backpack Full of Cash.

Narrated by Matt Damon, the  film explores the growing privatization of public schools, especially in urban districts serving predominantly students of color, and how such privatization starves public schools of needed resources. Filmed in Philadelphia, New Orleans, Nashville, and other cities in 2013–14, the film focuses primarily on the effect of privately run charter schools and, in New Orleans, publicly funded vouchers for private religious schools. It also touches on issues such as the obsession with standardized tests and attacks on teacher unions.

Rethinking Schools, in conjunction with Aronow and Mondale and with support from the Schott Foundation for Public Education, developed a downloadable 24-page discussion guide for the lm. In addition to discussion questions, the guide includes background information, resources, and a special Frequently Asked Questions section, “Charters, Vouchers, and Public Schools,” which addresses common confusions about the causes and effects of privatization. The guide and stand-alone FAQ are available at For a list of upcoming screenings, or to rent the film, check out the film’s website

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