In 1945, the newly formed United Nations held a conference to found the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The main concern of the delegates, particularly those who came from the Third World, was literacy. There needs to be a ‘world crusade against illiteracy’, said Dr Jaime Jaramillo Arango, the rector of the National University of Colombia. For him, and several others, illiteracy was ‘one of the greatest outrages to human dignity’. Abdelfattah Amr, the Egyptian ambassador to the United Kingdom and a champion squash player, said that illiteracy was part of the broader problem of underdevelopment, as evidenced by ‘the shortage of technicians and the scarcity of educational materials’.
Student organizers, faculty and workers at 25 university campuses across the US are calling for their institutions to cancel their contracts with Starbucks in protest against the company’s response to union organizing efforts. The “Starbucks gets an F” actions will take place on Thursday at campuses including the University of Chicago, the University of South Florida, UW-Madison, New York University, Georgetown and Rutgers. Hundreds of college campuses have Starbucks locations on them, either through licensing agreements or through contracts with third-party vendors. Student organizers are circulating petitions pushing their universities to cut contracts with Starbucks on their campuses and raise public awareness about their efforts to hold the company accountable and support workers’ unionizing efforts at Starbucks.
The culture war in education that began in response to the protests that followed the murder of George Floyd in 2020 has had a chilling effect on how race is discussed in classrooms. Since January 2021, 44 states have introduced bills and at least 18 have passed laws restricting or banning the teaching of supposed critical race theory. Just 12 states (Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee and Washington) have Black history mandates for K-12 public schools. In addition, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine and Rhode Island have legislated Black history courses or electives during the last two years. But several of the 12 states have new laws on the books that limit their curriculum.
Students at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, produced a parody edition of the school’s paper, the Daily Northwestern, to call out the school’s stance on Israel’s war on Gaza. Some folks wrapped the fake front pages around some 300 copies of the actual school paper. This exercise in culture jamming got two students brought up on a charge that could have landed them in prison for a year. After widespread protest on campus, and national coverage in the Intercept (2/5/24) and Responsible Statecraft (2/5/24), charges were dropped against the students. After the appearance of the look-alike Northwestern Daily—bearing the headline “Northwestern Complicit in Genocide of Palestinians”—the parent company of the school paper, Students Publishing Company, announced that it was engaging “law enforcement to investigate and find those responsible.”
An arbitration decision has determined public school employees in five bargaining units of the state’s largest union are entitled to back pay of up to 25% of their total salaries for as much as two years, according to the state’s largest union. The Hawaii Government Employees Association said the decision covers up to 7,800 Department of Education employees, including school nurses, office employees, and classroom educational assistants. “Those working in the DOE were some of the most exposed among public service employees, putting their own health – as well as that of their loved ones – at substantial risk to keep services running in Hawaii’s schools,” HGEA Executive Director Randy Perreira said Tuesday in a written statement.
If you teach, your absolute worst nightmare is that something tragic happens to your students. Teachers don’t just think about students when they are in front of us; we think about them throughout each day and night. They are a central part of our lives. When a young person steps into our classroom, the first thing we do is work to connect. That’s the best way students learn. When a student doesn’t live up to their own potential, we take it personally. We obsess about what went wrong. Caring about students also means deliberately caring about the world we are helping them grow into. It has never been enough to only teach students when they are in the classroom; we have to advocate for them all the time.
In 1958 I learned that the British established colonies in Eastern North America. I was in 5th grade. In trying to recall how and what names, dates and locations were taught, it proves to be a jumble. But I remember that a lot happened in the early 17th century, including the founding of most of those British colonies. I remember being told about Pilgrims and their struggle for religious freedom. I also remember learning that there were Indigenous tribes living in the areas colonized, but the clear implication was that a lot of the land was vacant. I remember learning about indentured servants, but I don’t remember learning anything about the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in 1619.
A wildly successful, illegal three-day strike by the Andover Education Association in November has reverberated statewide for educators in Massachusetts. The lowest-paid instructional assistants got a 60 percent wage jump immediately. Classroom aides on the higher end of the scale got a 37 percent increase. Members won paid family medical leave, an extra personal day, fewer staff meetings, and the extension of lunch and recess times for elementary students. Andover is 20 miles north of Boston, and the strike involved 10 schools. For 10 months and 27 bargaining sessions, the Andover School Committee had insisted that none of these demands was possible.
Brown vs. Board of Education, the pivotal Supreme Court decision that made school segregation unconstitutional, turns 70 years old on May 17, 2024. At the time of the 1954 ruling, 17 U.S. states had laws permitting or requiring racially segregated schools. The Brown decision declared that segregation in public schools was “inherently unequal.” This was, in part, because the court argued that access to equitable, nonsegregated education played a critical role in creating informed citizens – a paramount concern for the political establishment amid the Cold War. With Brown, the justices overturned decades of legal precedent that kept Black Americans in separate and unequal schools.
Jennifer Brandsberg-Engelmann, an international secondary school educator and curriculum developer, had long been appalled by the dismal state of economics education for young people. Students at middle and high schools learn about a "degenerative economic system," as she puts it, in which "the economy" is framed as something separate from society and nature. With little sense of contemporary realities, economics courses assume that endless economic growth is desirable and possible. It focuses on businesses and markets, ignoring the vital role that household care and the commons play.
Since Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, there have been numerous Western officials publicly decrying school textbooks in Palestine (West Bank and Gaza) and how they instill violence against settlers, occupiers, and the Zionist entity. The officials rely in their outcries on reports by a liberal institute that defames Palestinian textbooks, while aggrandizing Zionist entity’s textbooks as harbingers for peace. Simultaneously, since the Al-Aqsa Flood, there have been numerous videos circulating showing young settlers not only being apathetic to the genocide of Palestinians in Gaza (when the time of writing, it has surpassed 20,000 civilians killed) but also celebrating such atrocity.
When Becky Pringle, president of the 3-million-member National Education Association (NEA), the largest union in the country, tweeted, “We join our partner organizations along with Jewish and Muslim leaders across the globe in an urgent call for an end to the violence,” it was one more step in the growing movement among union activists demanding a ceasefire in Palestine. Teachers unions including the Chicago Teachers Union, the San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Professionals, and the Massachusetts Teachers Association were some of the first unions to sign on to a ceasefire resolution spearheaded by the United Electrical Workers and Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 3000.
Tulsa, Oklahoma — Ashley Daly still gets angry thinking about the first Oklahoma state board of education meeting she attended. It was August 2022 and the board was preparing to downgrade the accreditation for two school districts, including Tulsa, where Daly’s daughter attends school, over alleged violations of Oklahoma’s new law banning critical race theory. As the board penalized the district for a diversity training that predated the law, the realization struck her: “They were punishing a school district of 33,000 kids for political reasons, and I was the only parent from Tulsa in the room.”
I attended the Janazah and burial of Wadea Al-Fayoume on October 16. In the first weeks of Israel’s assault on Gaza, the six-year old Palestinian American boy, from a suburb of Chicago, was stabbed 26 times by his family’s landlord in a hate crime. The United States is currently awash in rhetoric justifying Muslim and Arab deaths. Joseph Czuba, 71, the landlord charged with killing Wadea and gravely injuring his mother, was on the receiving end of that rhetoric. Czuba was reportedly an avid listener of conservative talk radio. According to Czuba’s wife, he’d grown irate over supposed plans for a “national day of jihad,” a mistranslated call for mass protests that was weaponized by rightwing media to cause panic.
After the 30 documented boarding schools that operated in South Dakota until the 1970s stripped the state’s Indigenous Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people of their culture, language, history and human rights, Indigenous students have floundered in the state’s public school system. With high school graduation rates for Native American students hovering around 50%, some communities have sought to right educational wrongs through charter schools. But their proposals have repeatedly been stalled: A bill proposed by Native American legislators and communities to create state-funded charter schools focused on teaching Lakota language, culture and history failed for the third time last year.