Thursday, March 31, 2022

PETITION TO THE TEXAS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION In Favor of Necessary Truth and Against the Nonsense of Censorship


Next Wednesday, the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) is hearing testimony on Social Studies TEKS standards (Item 10), the very ones that attach to the extremist move against the 1619 Project and Critical Race Theory (CRT) which we know is not actually taught in K-12 schools. Regardless, this law that the SBOE now has to interpret and implement—risks creating a chilling effect for K-12 teachers on the teaching of race in the schools.

Please read this petition below and consider signing it as a statement against censorship that Senate Bill 3—Texas' anti-CRT bill—represents. We support instead teaching that is honest, hopeful, and healing: (Note: copy and paste link in your browser if this link doesn't work.)

Also, if you're in the Austin area next Wednesday when the item will get heard, consider the following additional possible actions

  1. Attend our press conference against censorship at 10:30AM next Wednesday in the inside foyer of the William B. Travis State Office Building—home to the Texas Education Agency—at 1701 North Congress Ave., Austin, Texas, located across the street from the Bullock History Museum Building.
  2. Sign up TODAY to testify on Item 10 of the TSBOE that focuses on the social studies TEKS. Agenda: 

  3.  (Links to an external site.)
    Sign up here TODAY to testify: 
Remember that your testimony needs to be focused on the actual item—in this case, Item 10 on which you intend to testify; also when you testify, you only get two minutes to speak. However, the board may ask you questions, extending your time, and you can also always submit written testimony.

The Texas SBOE is a 15-member board and you can locate your SBOE member here. While we keep pushing for Ethnic Studies in the legislature and at the Texas SBOE, regardless of SB3, we desperately need to continue advocating for more diverse representation in our state's K-12 content social studies standards as well as throughout the entire curriculum. Many organizations and coalition members are expected to be in attendance.

See y'all on Wednesday!

-Angela Valenzuela

#SayNoToFascism #Fascism

In Favor of Necessary Truth and Against the Nonsense of Censorship

National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies Texas Chapter

“Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such Thing as public Liberty, without Freedom of Speech.” — Benjamin Franklin

“Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us." — Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas

A very old enemy—CENSORSHIP—raises its ugly head as educators across the country have been advocating for an expanded public school curriculum that includes under-represented groups like Mexican Americans, African Americans, Indigenous communities, Asian and Pacific Islanders, and women. The Texas Legislature’s House Bill 3979 and Senate Bill 3—the latter signed by the governor—have given new life to CENSORSHIP by questioning the teaching of race in our schools and outlawing the 1619 Project, a reasonable proposal to incorporate a broader understanding of African American history into U.S. history. The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) will now consider implementing the misdirected will of the Texas Legislature and giving new life to CENSORSHIP.

The problem is that the bills—and now the law—call for CENSORSHIP with the baseless argument of reverse discrimination that accuses our schools of knowingly and purposefully making White youth feel responsible for the racial “sins of their fathers.” The SBOE is now being called to embrace hateful CENSORSHIP and, in the process, discard two of its bedrock principles, that verifiable and trustworthy history serves as the foundation for our state’s standard curriculum; and that teacher training and certification programs as well as tested ethical principles in the profession and the ongoing oversight work of the SBOE assure the proper social-emotional development of all youth. The directive from the Legislature and the Governor’s office, in other words, not only proposes to CENSOR the teaching of subjects related to race; it also questions the integrity of public servants in the SBOE and the good judgment of well over 300,000 professional teachers in Texas.

The members of the SBOE and the general public should consider the legislative intent endorsed by the bills and the governor who signed SB3. According to State Representative Steve Toth, the author of the initial bill, the teaching of race and the 1619 Project cause “hateful classroom activities and a racially discriminatory curriculum” (Toth: Letter to members of the Texas House of Representatives, May 7, 2021). In his letter to fellow legislators, Toth offered as evidence one single children’s book that teachers from the Dallas Highland Park School District supposedly recommended to some of their students. Never mind that the book, Not My Idea; A Book about Whiteness (by Anastasia Higginbotham) represents a single reading recommendation, that an undetermined number—possibly one or a few—made. Whoever these teachers in question are, their recommendation arguably carries more weight than Mr. Toth who found its contents inappropriate for use in Texas classrooms (Consult the following site for a different view of the book,

Mr. Toth adds insult to injury when he makes the unfounded and specious association of a growing rate of suicide among White youth with the teaching of race. He warns that suicide among children between the ages of 10 and 14 has “exploded” from .9 to 2 per hundred thousand between 2010 and 2021. Aside from failing to demonstrate the association of suicides with the teaching of race, Mr. Toth’s strained logic offers no substantiation for his observation, while also callously exploiting a mental health issue for political gain and, no doubt, injuring the sensibilities of Texas families who are indeed suffering such losses.

Although CENSORSHIP is being sold as an act of caring for White youth, it is having the opposite effect. According to the American Medical Association’s Everyday Health,

While parents may be tempted to shelter their children from issues that they find unfavorable or offensive, they may be restricting their child’s ability to grow and learn at the same time. These restrictive world views are the seeds of bigotry, with the implication being that anyone who believes differently from you must be foolish or misinformed.

Our goal as educators and parents is not to create obstacles to a healthy understanding of the world so that our children can be productive members of society. This is not a partisan issue. According to a CBS News poll, 80% of Americans favor the teaching issues related to race and the country's history of racism. The authors of the subsequent report conclude that “The idea that teaching about race makes students feel guilty about past generations or makes them less racially tolerant today gets little traction with most Americans.”

We are facing a massive shortage of teachers in the classroom, and the specter of censorship and book banning only serves to add undue stress on an already overburdened profession. Moreover, CENSORSHIP spreads fear of others and the banning of books does nothing more than foster anxiety and dread when learning should be purposeful and enjoyable. It is this fear that led the framers of the Constitution to ensure our freedom of speech as a core feature of democratic life.

Since the inception of this country, our very first act was to establish the freedom of speech. The very first Amendment to our Constitution states that,

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This cherished core value has been under attack during the past hundred years, but especially in recent times. The recent official view of the AFL-CIO underscores this fact:

The guarantee of access to a free and quality public education should be a right accorded to every child in this country. Securing that guarantee should be a goal and a value that unites all Americans and is supported by our public policies and policymakers at every level. []

Clearly, our lawmakers seek to curtail an honest and diverse teaching of history and contemporary society and, in the process, hinder our children’s ability to fully understand and appreciate the complexity of our current world.


Christopher Carmona, Ph.D.

Emilio Zamora, Ph.D.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

"Fannie Lou Hamer and Ketanji Brown Jackson: The Democratization of Party Politics in the U.S.," by Dr. Blandina "Bambi" Cardenas

Reflecting on Ketanji Brown Jackson's testimony before Congress in the wake of her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, Dr. Blandina "Bambi" Cardenas' speaks to the long arm of history involving singular acts of courage by extraordinary individuals like Ketanji Brown Jackson and the legendary Fannie Lou Hamer, resulting in defining moments with lasting impacts—even if not immediately manifest.

Accordingly, everyone should take time to listen to Fannie Lou Hamer's riveting speech before the Credentials Committee of the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City.

Thanks to Dr. Cardenas for sharing her essay and for connecting these stories to her own, as well as to real progress with respect to Mexican American women's representation in party politics. 

It's provocative and inspiring to think of how single acts of courage can inaugurate a sea of much-needed change. This is as true today as it was then. Moreover, society as a whole benefits from this widening of the circle of citizenship and democracy. 

Savor and enjoy!

-Angela Valenzuela

"Fannie Lou Hamer and Ketanji Brown Jackson: The Democratization of Party Politics in the U.S.


Dr. Blandina "Bambi" Cardenas

As I watched the awesome display of intelligence, strength and dignity in the person of Judge Jackson before the Senate Judiciary Committee, my thoughts went to Fannie Lou Hamer, a woman who changed my life and the lives of women of every color in the United States. The arc of history that curves from Fannie Lou Hamer to Ketanji Brown Jackson is not one that is likely to be covered in American History classes, it may not even be understood in Women's History classes.

It is often that way that a seemingly small act of courage by a seemingly powerless person sends an energy through a community, a state or a country that fundamentally creates the conditions that allow whole populations to thrive in ways they were never able to thrive before.

In 1964 Fannie Lou Hamer led the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to the Democratic National Convention seeking to be seated because the Democratic Party in Mississippi would not allow and even criminalized efforts by black people to vote. A victim of non-consensual sterilization, Fannie had a story to tell and the party and the nation were moved. Four years later the Democratic National Convention was rocked by the anti-war protests, and more deeply by the issue of inclusion and representation.

The accumulated frustration with the make up and the representation in the largely all white male party that had nominated John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson led to the establishment of the McGovern-Frasier Commission. It is also noteworthy that the DNC chairman at the time was Senator Fred Harris, who just happened to be married to LaDonna Harris, a leader for women and her Native American community. The McGovern Frasier Commission rewrote the rules for recognition of delegates, but also established the requirement that every committee at every level of the Democratic Party should include representation of women and underrepresented groups proportional to their participation in the previous presidential election.

This democratized the structure of the party and opened the doors to women and underrepresented groups for all time going forward. In Texas, Mexicano politicos suddenly had to take their wives to the conventions and behave. Moreover their wives got to sit on committees and learn the rules. Alicia Chacon of El Paso, Judith Zaffirini and then I served as Vice Chair of the Texas Party. The DNC was 50 percent women. Fannie Lou Hamer had walked into the lions den and demanded not only the right to vote in the polling places but the right to be at the table where decisions were made. The concept of equal representation was rooted.

The Republican Party did not adopt similar rules, but it could not continue to exclude anybody but white men. It too had to be concerned with representation. Before very long, my good friend Mary Louise Smith, a woman rights activist became chairperson of the Republican National Committee and gaveled the 1974 Convention into session. Sandra Day O'Connor was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1981. George Bush, Sr. was highly intentional and direct in appointing women and people of color to his administration. The world had changed. Never again would a national political convention be all male and exclusionary on the basis of race.

Even when doors open, it still takes extraordinary intelligence, discipline, application, backbone, and patience for those members of formerly excluded groups to persevere and succeed. No group does that. It is an individual journey and it is an individual accomplishment. If it occurs in the public eye, it is exponentially challenging. You do have to put up with a lot of jerks. If you are a woman, and particularly a woman of color, those jerks think they can either ignore you or beat you into submission. You learn to put them in their place and to keep yours. Mostly you learn to let them blow until they thoroughly embarrass themselves and then move on to what is important.

Every wave of change begins with someone with the courage to disrupt. The status quo is powerful and resistant to attack. But disruption must be followed by strategic construction of new processes that bring the greatest good to the many and not just the few. And ultimately it requires leaders with the courage of Fannie Lou Hamer, who with impeccable preparation and disciplined application, understand that it's not about getting in the door and to the table, it is about bringing to that table your authentic understandings of what it took to put you in that place to begin with.

"The Missing Hispanic Students: Higher ed's future, and the economy, depends on their coming back to college," by Sarah Brown

The pandemic has reversed, at least for now, a pattern of higher undergraduate enrollment among Hispanics/Latinas/os in our nation's community colleges and universities. This is consequential to higher education given their growing share of the pool of prospective students. Though not occurring everywhere, enrollment drops for this demographic are evident as referenced herein:

"For colleges — especially community colleges, which enroll more than half of Hispanic students — any enrollment drop is an alarming, immediate problem. Much of the country is staring down a “demographic cliff,” as the number of high-school graduates is projected to decline after 2025, leading to fewer prospective college students. In most states, Hispanic students are a rapidly growing share of that pool."

This warning of a demographic cliff should sound alarm bells throughout the country. Clearly, greater financial aid is a remedy as this reversal in the trend is consequential, in particular, to the students themselves and to the economy, as a whole.

-Angela Valenzuela

Retrieve online HERE.

By Sarah Brown | Feb. 11, 2022 | CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION

The numbers already didn’t look good: Doña Ana Community College had lost nearly one fifth of its enrollment from the spring of 2020 to the spring of 2021. About three-fourths of the roughly 5,300 students at the two-year institution in southern New Mexico are Hispanic.

Then Monica Torres, the college’s president, had an institutional-research official look at the data more closely. Doña Ana was down 40 percent among first-generation students, low-income students, and student parents — the college’s most vulnerable populations.

“That’s like hair-on-fire time,” says Torres, who became president in 2018. This spring, the college’s total enrollment is down another 5 percent.

Torres grew up in Las Cruces, N.M., a city of 100,000 people, about 40 miles from the Mexican border; Doña Ana’s six campuses are spread throughout the city and county.

“You’re not just talking about individual students and the opportunities they’re losing,” Torres says, “but you’re talking about the impact on the community.” If local residents don’t go to college, research suggests that they’ll be worse off financially. They won’t be qualified for many of the region’s future jobs — in emerging fields like solar energy and defense manufacturing, and high-demand fields like home health care and education. The economy will struggle.

Colleges’ undergraduate enrollment is down across the board, at every type of institution, among nearly all demographic groups. But the number of Hispanic students leaving college after a year or two, or deciding not to start, is especially concerning.

After two decades during which Hispanic students have been the fastest-growing demographic group enrolling in college, the Covid-19 pandemic has threatened that progress — among a population with the lowest degree attainment of any racial or ethnic group in the United States. Hispanic undergraduate enrollment fell 7 percent from 2019 to 2021, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Percentage-wise, Black and Native American students saw larger enrollment decreases than their Hispanic peers during that time, wrote Nathan D. Grawe, a Carleton College economist and enrollment expert, in a recent Chronicle essay. But the change in the trend among Hispanic students was most striking — because their attendance had been increasing pre-pandemic. Black students’ college-going rates dipped following the 2008 recession and never recovered, Grawe noted: “Temporary disturbances can produce lasting effects.”

For colleges — especially community colleges, which enroll more than half of Hispanic students — any enrollment drop is an alarming, immediate problem. Much of the country is staring down a “demographic cliff,” as the number of high-school graduates is projected to decline after 2025, leading to fewer prospective college students. In most states, Hispanic students are a rapidly growing share of that pool.

While colleges have stemmed the bleeding by using federal Covid relief funding for student support, that money will soon run out.

As the pandemic enters its third year, colleges and community leaders nationwide are on a quest to make sure Hispanic students come back and stay on track. They’re clear about the stakes: The future of higher ed, and the nation’s economic success, depends on it.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Seven Texas Teachers on the State of Education: “I’m Tired of Getting Punched.”

Interlocking crises are ruinous to public education. Teachers are burning out. There is way too much stress and pressure on our teachers—to the point of unreasonableness. No, this isn't at all a true year of what teaching is. However, that's of little consolation to overly-stressed teachers who are bearing the brunt of two years of a pandemic.

If we can do one thing, based on what we read here, let's stop testing these students and let's refocus on the relational, healing, uplifting aspects of education. All of our youth are capable of achieving at high levels. What they need, however, is for their needs to get attended to. So many are traumatized and they need how to move forward in their relationships, make friends, and resolve problems. Let's indeed tackle the hard problems so that our youth and teachers can get on with learning.

-Angela Valenzuela

Seven Texas Teachers on the State of Education: “I’m Tired of Getting Punched.” After two years of hell, Texas teachers are burned-out, angry, tired—and sounding the alarm about public education.

Even in the best of times, teaching is a challenging profession. In Texas, K–12 educators have long contended with relatively low pay, a Byzantine school finance system, high-stakes standardized testing, and indifferent politicians. But the COVID-19 pandemic—now in its third year—has introduced extraordinary new obstacles. There’s severe understaffing, heated debates over critical race theory, and plummeting standardized test scores, not to mention the slew of difficulties that accompany remote learning. These interlocking crises can sometimes make the classroom feel like a pressure cooker. And yet teachers—most of them, at least—keep showing up. To understand the toll this is taking, Texas Monthly spoke with a dozen current and recently departed teachers about burnout, COVID fears, learning loss, the upcoming STAAR tests, staffing shortages, the effect of the pandemic on students, whether to keep teaching or to quit, and the future of the profession. They are a diverse bunch, representing a racial and ethnic cross section of Texas educators. They teach at elementary, middle, and high schools at school districts across the state. What follows are lightly edited versions of the stories of seven teachers at the education front lines.

I. On Burnout

This year is like none other for me.”

It’s no surprise that many Texas teachers are burning out. For two years, they’ve been asked to do far more than just juggle the usual demands of classroom instructions; they’re also counseling students reeling from the pandemic, breaking up fights, and giving up their planning periods to cover for other educators who are out sick or have quit. Teachers are also stressing about the full return of the STAAR exams in May, after they were canceled in 2020 and made optional in 2021. Many say they are being pushed to the breaking point. 

Alex Marquez, formerly seventh- and eighth-grade special education, Northside ISD, eleven years of experience: Beginning in 2020, I saw levels of anxiety I had never seen before. I ended up having to start medication just to build up the courage to walk into the classroom every single day, not knowing what circumstances I was going to be walking into—not even knowing, in many cases, if any of my students were sick; always wondering about my colleagues; always wondering, “When am I going to finally get sick? When am I going to bring COVID home to my family?” And always having that over your head in addition to the demands from administration, demands from parents, trying to also be there to support students. It made not only emotional and mental impacts on my life, but also physical and physiological ones—stomachaches, headaches, anxiety, insomnia, lack of appetite. It was just not a good state to live in. At the end of the day, I can’t pour from an empty cup. I can’t be there for my students if I can’t even be there for myself.

"How White Backlash Controls American Progress," by Lawrence Glickman

As outlined in this piece by Lawrence Glickman in The Atlantic, the underpinnings of modern conservativism are premised on zero-sum logic, paranoia, and fear which dictate that African American and minority gains, in general, equate to white loss and victimization. For white "backlashers," a loss of "white tranquility” finds expression in other backlashes like we're seeing today against women, undocumented immigrants, transgender youth, and in the attack on the teaching of race in schools and universities.

Glickman nails these backlashes as not quite a series of discrete actions, but rather as a reactionary tradition 

"that is deeply woven into American political culture and that extends back to the era of Reconstruction, at least. And the backlashes are powerful not only for the fury they represent, but in the fear they instill in political leaders, even progressives, who hesitate to push things 'too far.'"

May this piece serve as a cautionary tale to liberals and progressives. After all, to give sway is to support not just "creeping fascism," but full-blown fascism manifest as anti-diversity, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, genocidal racism together with systematic campaigns against the right to vote and the republican agenda to not only legislate but also police how we are to think and teach, all in the interest of preserving "white tranquility," however punishing, regressive, or unconstitutional.

This "White Backlash" framework helps explain why Donald Trump’s MAGA discourse and politics found fertile ground in America, that for fascists, conveniently exposed a gaping hole that Putin and his minions could exploit by helping get Trump elected and softening Republicans' posture toward Russia (read: Donald Trump Softened the GOP on Russia—At Least for Now).

I'll conclude with my thoughts this morning by providing you with this apt quote here by the beloved and legendary educator, Deborah Meier who once expressed, "If there's a problem with democracy, the answer is always more democracy, not less democracy."

-Angela Valenzuela

How White Backlash Controls American Progress

Backlash dynamics are one of the defining patterns of the country’s history.

About the author: Lawrence B. Glickman is a history professor at Cornell University. He is the author, most recently, of Free Enterprise: An American History.

MAY 21, 2020 Updated at 10:41 a.m. ET on May 22, 2020 | The Atlantic

The word backlash gained popularity in the summer of 1963, when, after dallying on the issue for the first two years of his presidency, President John F. Kennedy proposed significant civil-rights legislation. In response, the word, which had primarily denoted the recoil of a fishing line, was repurposed, usually as “white backlash,” to refer to opposition to the increased pace of African American civil-rights activism or the Kennedy (and, after his assassination in November 1963, the Lyndon B. Johnson) administration’s legislative proposals and executive actions, or both.

In 1966, a commentator, speaking of “the grand new word, backlash,” claimed without much exaggeration that “just about everything that happened could be (and was) attributed to some form of backlash.” The word came to stand for a topsy-turvy rebellion in which white people with relative societal power perceived themselves as victimized by what they described as overly aggressive African Americans demanding equal rights. Backlash, as the New York Times columnist Tom Wicker wrote, “is nothing more nor less than white resentment of Negroes.”

Moving beyond an opposition to civil rights, the word backlash—less frequently qualified as “white”—quickly became a synonym for a new and growing conservative force, signifying a virulent counterreaction to all manner of social movements and cultural transformations that became central to American politics. Over time, observers noted manifestations of this reaction in a “Southern backlash,” a “male backlash,” a “heterosexual backlash,” a “property tax backlash” and a “backlash against environmentalists.” Just a month after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, a journalist described the United States as being in the midst of “a multitude of backlashes.” But as one commentator pointed out, “The word which gave rise to all sorts of other ‘lashes’ was coined in reference to white opposition to Negro gains.”

Backlash may have burst onto the scene as “the word of the year in American politics” in 1964, but it described one of the oldest and deepest patterns in American politics, one that is once again playing out today in the right-wing campaign against social distancing. Backlashes appear as seemingly serial and discrete events—against the civil-rights movement in the 1960s, or the women’s movement in the ’70s, or the gay-rights movement in the ’90s. But this obscures an underlying continuity: These individual backlashes are all instances of a reactionary tradition, one that is deeply woven into American political culture and that extends back to the era of Reconstruction, at least. And the backlashes are powerful not only for the fury they represent, but in the fear they instill in political leaders, even progressives, who hesitate to push things “too far.”

During Reconstruction, opponents of the black-freedom struggle deployed preemptive, apocalyptic, slippery-slope arguments that have remained enduring features of backlash politics up to the present. They treated federal support for African American civil rights, economic and social equality—however delayed, reluctant, underfunded, and incomplete it may have been—as a cataclysmic overreaction and framed it as a far more dangerous threat to liberty than the injustice it was designed to address. In 1867, not even two years after ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle decried the placement of political power “in the hands of a property-less and ignorant class of the population,” and pronounced that “the pending Reconstruction scheme must be abandoned.”

Since then, such framing has done more than merely shape the politics of reaction in the United States; it has also constrained putatively supportive political leaders, who live in fear of setting off backlashes. Responding to a moderate plan to enfranchise only free blacks in Louisiana in 1864, the Union general Nathaniel P. Banks, worrying about a negative response from the state’s whites, who were being defeated in the Civil War, said, “Revolutions which are not controlled and held within reasonable limits produce counter-revolution.” That obeisance to a defeated group in 1864 was an extreme version of a general pattern that has remained a hallmark of backlashes ever since: solicitousness to white fears.

For many white backlashers in the 1960s, the era of what the historian C. Vann Woodward called the “second Reconstruction,” the first Reconstruction remained a negative model. They viewed its reform as overly fast-paced, and felt that it foregrounded black civil rights at the cost of white people’s peace of mind. They associated civil-rights activism with what popular historians and commentators of the day called the “excesses” of Reconstruction, by which they meant a combination of “militant” African American demands for basic equality with overweening, aggressive, and hasty federal action in support of interracial democracy. Thurman Sensing of the Southern States Industrial Council, a conservative business group, described the civil-rights movement in 1966 as an effort to force “the Reconstruction of American customs,” showing the degree to which the post–Civil War campaign for racial equality remained a central metaphor for white backlashers. The journalist in December 1963 who noted the political power of those opposed to “Negro pressure for equal opportunity and the Federal Government’s pace on the Civil Rights front,” could just as easily have been describing the origins of the counterrevolution of the 1870s.

There was, then, nothing particularly novel about the constituent elements of white backlash to the civil-rights movement: its smoldering resentment, its belief that the movement was proceeding “too fast,” its demands for emotional and psychological sympathy, and its displacement of African Americans’ struggles with its own claims of grievance.

What is particularly noteworthy is that the white backlash in this case was in place before the passage of the Civil Rights Act in July 1964. The pattern is this: American reactionary politics is nearly always preemptive, predicting catastrophe and highlighting potential slippery slopes. “White backlash,” after all, got its name in 1963, just months after African Americans in Birmingham risked attacks from police dogs and high-pressure fire hoses in order to demand justice, and immediately after Kennedy mooted the idea of substantive legislation—both events taking place well before the Civil Rights Act became law. What one reporter called “white panic” was driven by fears of “favoritism” and “special privileges” for African Americans—that white “workers would be forced out of their jobs to make way for Negroes,” as one article put it that year, when Jim Crow still prevailed. “Many of my people think the Negroes want to take over the country,” a midwestern Republican politician said in a Wall Street Journal article published on April 10 of the following year, still months before the Act’s passage. “They think there are things in the bill that just aren’t there, like forced sales of housing to Negroes and stuff like that.” White backlashers imagined coercion where it did not exist. They embraced a lexicon and posture of victimization that hearkened back to the era of Reconstruction and anticipated the deceiving, self-pitying MAGA discourse that drives reactionary politics in Donald Trump’s America.

Residents of Levittown, Pennsylvania, are shown during a rally on 
August 17, 1957, to protest plans by William Myers, a black man, 
to move into a home in the all-white community of 60,000 people.
(Bill Ingraham / AP)

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

The "Putinization" of Public Education: Texas superintendent tells librarians to pull books on sexuality, transgender people

What we see happening in Granbury ISD with Superintendent Glenn is nothing short of fascism, making it hard for me not to think of Vladimir Putin (read: "Putin's warning to anti-war Russians evokes Stalinist purges").

I hope folks see the irony that censorship and enforcing a fictitious narrative of heteronormativity by banning LGBTQ books is similar to what Putin is doing right now with Russians—and ostensibly, the world—to impose his fictions on the war he launched against Ukraine.

The colossal tragedy here is that there is so much freedom to be experienced in respecting and honoring difference together with observing others' dignity, especially children and youth in one's care. Hence, under the guise of upholding "the values of our community" Superintendent Glenn's words and actions send a terrible message of contempt toward those same children and youth that he should be protecting.

If, on the other hand, his motivations really are to purge Granbury ISD of those he sees as "scum and traitors," this would make Putin very proud.

Friends, this is full-blown fascism. We're a democracy. It's in our DNA.

We need to vote, run for office, and get involved in the legislative process. This hateful, fear-mongering, backwards, and morally bankrupt leadership needs to occupy the dustbin of history. The sooner, the better.

-Angela Valenzuela

Texas superintendent tells librarians to pull books on sexuality, transgender people

The Granbury superintendent’s comments, made on a leaked recording, raise constitutional concerns, legal experts said.

For months, conservative parents and politicians across Texas had been pressuring districts to remove from school libraries any books that contain explicit descriptions of sex, labeling several young adult novels as “pornography.” Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, called for criminal investigations into school employees who make such content available to students.

Many of the titles targeted statewide have featured queer characters and storylines, but those calling for the books’ removal have repeatedly said they are concerned only with sex and vulgarity, not with suppressing the views of LGBTQ students and authors.

Glenn made a similar argument during his closed-door meeting with librarians in Granbury, which is about an hour’s drive southwest of Dallas.

“I don’t want a kid picking up a book, whether it’s about homosexuality or heterosexuality, and reading about how to hook up sexually in our libraries,” Glenn said.

He also made it clear that his concerns specifically included books with LGBTQ themes, even if they do not describe sex. Those comments, according to legal experts, raise concerns about possible violations of the First Amendment and federal civil rights laws that protect students from discrimination based on their gender and sexuality.

“And I’m going to take it a step further with you,” he said, according to the recording. “There are two genders. There’s male, and there’s female. And I acknowledge that there are men that think they’re women. And there are women that think they’re men. And again, I don’t have any issues with what people want to believe, but there’s no place for it in our libraries.”

Minutes later, after someone asked whether titles on racism were acceptable, Glenn said books on different cultures “are great.” 

“Specifically, what we’re getting at, let’s call it what it is, and I’m cutting to the chase on a lot of this,” Glenn said. “It’s the transgender, LGBTQ and the sex — sexuality — in books. That’s what the governor has said that he will prosecute people for, and that’s what we’re pulling out.”

Over the next two weeks, the school district embarked on one of the largest book removals in the country, pulling about 130 titles from library shelves for review. Nearly three-quarters of the removed books featured LGBTQ characters or themes, according to a ProPublica and Texas Tribune analysis. Others dealt with racism, sex ed, abortion and women’s rights. 

Two months later, a volunteer review committee voted to permanently ban three of the books and return the others to shelves. But that may not be the end of the process. 

In his recorded comments to librarians, Glenn described the review of 130 titles as the first step in a broader appraisal of library content, and a new policy approved by the school board later in January grants him and other administrators broad authority to unilaterally remove additional titles they deem inappropriate, with no formal review and no way for the public to easily find out what has been pulled from shelves.

Legal, education and First Amendment experts contacted by NBC News, ProPublica and the Tribune said the audio of the superintendent, combined with the decision to abruptly remove books from circulation, even temporarily, raises constitutional concerns.

Glenn’s comments also call into question the district’s commitment to fostering a safe and inclusive school environment for LGBTQ students and could be grounds for a complaint to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which enforces federal anti-discrimination laws, the experts said.

“This audio is very much evidence of anti-LGBTQ and particularly anti-trans discrimination,” said Kate Huddleston, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, who reviewed the recording at the request of NBC News, ProPublica and the Tribune. “It is very much saying the quiet part out loud in a way that provides very significant evidence that book removals in the district are occurring because of anti-LGBTQ bias.”

In a written statement, Glenn said the district was committed to supporting students of all backgrounds. And although he said the district’s primary focus is educating students, “the values of our community will always be reflected in our schools.”

“In Granbury and across Texas we are seeing parents push back and demand elected officials put safeguards in place to protect their children from materials that serve no academic purpose, but rather push a political narrative,” Glenn said in the statement. “As a result, classrooms and libraries have turned schools into battle grounds for partisan politics.”

None of Granbury’s school board trustees responded to messages requesting comment. District spokesperson Jeff Meador sent a statement emphasizing that all of the books permanently removed from shelves in Granbury are “sexually explicit and not age-appropriate” and noting that district libraries “continue to house a socially and culturally diverse collection of books for students to read, including books which analyze and explore LGBTQ+ issues.” 

The three books the committee voted to remove were “This Book Is Gay,” a coming out guide for LGBTQ teens by transgender author Juno Dawson that includes detailed descriptions of sex; “Out of Darkness,” by Ashley Hope Pérez, a young adult novel about a romance between a Mexican American girl and a Black boy that includes a rape scene and other mature content; and “We Are the Ants,” by Shaun David Hutchinson, a coming-of-age novel about a gay teenager that includes explicit sexual language.

At least one member of the volunteer review committee was dissatisfied that only three books have been permanently removed so far, and she has started calling for a second review of the ones that have been returned.

“There are people who want to tear down values and force theirs and then also force acceptance,” Monica Brown, the committee member, said in a Facebook video following the decision. Brown did not respond to a request for comment. 

One of the Granbury ISD employees in attendance at the Jan. 10 meeting with librarians said that regardless of which books are pulled from shelves or returned, Glenn’s comments left her afraid to display or purchase LGBTQ books going forward — a chilling effect that she said could limit the diversity of Granbury library catalogs for years to come. The staff member, who was not the source of the audio, spoke on the condition that she not be named, because she feared retaliation from the district.

“He literally said books on trans issues have no place in a school,” she said. “It was alarming.”

The superintendent’s comments reflect a broader national debate. Conservative state legislatures across the country have been considering bills to restrict the ways educators teach about gender and sexuality in schools. This month, the Florida Legislature passed the Parental Rights in Education bill, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by its critics, which restricts or bans discussion of LGBTQ issues in the classroom.

Conservative activists and politicians pushing these changes nationally say the goal is to prevent teachers from having sensitive conversations with students unless the parents give their consent. Some have at times conflated sex and sexual orientation, accusing educators of attempting to “groom” young children because the teachers had discussed the existence of transgender people and same-sex relationships. Opponents contend that the measures discriminate against LGBTQ students and educators and violate federal laws meant to prevent discrimination in schools.

These changes coincide with attempts in several conservative states to limit the rights of transgender minors to participate in school sports and to access gender-affirming medical care. Last month, Abbott issued a directive — temporarily halted by a Texas judge — ordering the state’s child welfare agency to open abuse investigations into any reported instances of minors receiving such medical care, including the prescription of puberty blockers or hormones. 

As superintendent of a district that’s home to more than 7,400 students, Glenn is responsible for implementing and enforcing policies that ensure that children are not discriminated against based on their gender identity or sexual orientation. 

After listening to the recording of Glenn’s remarks, Lou Whiting, a nonbinary junior at Granbury High School, said they were outraged. Whiting and another student who’s part of the LGBTQ community said classmates at Granbury have harassed them at school, but they’ve avoided reporting the harassment because they worried administrators wouldn’t take their complaints seriously.

Lou Whiting, a nonbinary junior at Granbury High School, said they were angry when they learned the district was pulling dozens of LGBTQ-themed books from libraries.Shelby Tauber for ProPublica, The Texas Tribune, NBC News