By Maggie Stern
2021 began with a renewed hope for strengthened civics education to provide every student with the ability to make a difference in their communities. It is ending with escalating attacks on public education and on students’ freedom to learn – but also a growing commitment among students, parents, teachers, and advocates to demand a quality education for all Texans.
School is a place where children of all backgrounds should gather together to learn from the past, understand the present, and prepare to solve the challenges of the future. This year, some radical politicians have fought to divide us so they can exclude Black, queer, and other marginalized children by writing their stories out of our history books and denying our schools the resources they need to serve our students.
The effects of this legislation and rhetoric have been devastating. Williamson County commissioners briefly threatened to cut funding from two public school districts unless they remove certain books. An administrator in Southlake told teachers that new state laws required them to present “opposing” perspectives on the Holocaust. Now, even public libraries are facing calls to ban books that discuss race, gender, and sexuality.
These attacks are dangerous and escalating. But as we look towards 2022, we celebrate all the students, parents, teachers, and other advocates who recognize that we must teach the truth so we can honestly face our history and create a better and more just future.
The Williamson County commissioners agreed to release CARES Act funding after sustained public outcry. Students in Katy ISD continue organizing to update the district’s nondiscrimination policy, including restoring access to online LGBTQ+ resources and ending purges of library books. And after North East ISD received pushback for a decision to review over 400 books – the majority of which discussed race and racism or shared stories of queer relationships – students showed up to school board meetings to speak passionately about the value of reading diverse, empathetic literature.
CDF-Texas will continue to support advocates of all ages who speak up at school boards, contact their local leaders, and vote to ensure every child has the freedom to learn, grow, and thrive. Remember to check out our holiday book guide for reading recommendations from our staff and young advocates, and stay tuned in the new year for more opportunities to speak up for the freedom to learn.