Trouble in Censorville

The Far Right's Assault on Public Education and the Teachers Who are Fighting Back

Subjects: Education, General, Political Science, Censorship, History, 21st Century
Open Access : 9781964098012, 296 pages, 5.5 x 8.25, July 2027
Paperback : 9781964098005, 296 pages, 5.5 x 8.25, July 2024
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A teacher’s-eye view of the radical right’s crusade to take down public education


From Florida, whose “Don’t Say Gay” law prohibits K-12 instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation, to Texas, which is shuttering libraries in schools, America is in the middle of a far-right war on public education.
Now, for the first time, K-12 educators from across the nation give readers a teacher’s-eye view of the radical right crusade to take down public education, coordinated by well-funded, well-connected far-right political interests. Christian nationalists hell-bent on erasing the line between church and state, white supremacists opposed to a curriculum that teaches the enduring effects of anti-Black racism, political action committees, such as Moms for Liberty, calling for the banning of novels featuring LGBTQ+ people, and profiteers eager to divert taxpayer dollars into private schools are mounting a relentless attack on teachers, the students they serve, and the commitment to public education that is a cornerstone of democracy. “It’s a phenomenal, unprecedented moment that we’re in,” says a librarian, recently retired from her Texas school. “It’s surprising how many people don’t know what’s going on. I talk to reporters who have no idea. And they’re reporters.”
In Trouble in Censorville, public school teachers from states as far-flung as Florida, Texas, Kentucky, New Jersey, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Washington describe, in their own words, being threatened, stalked, doxxed, ostracized, smeared as “pedophiles" and "Marxists," placed on leave, and fired for teaching historical truth and racial justice, supporting LGBTQ+ students and, in one case, for wearing "insufficiently" feminine attire. Their stories bring readers face-to-face with the human cost of these attacks, which range from social isolation to pent-up anger over institutional betrayal to the terrible toll on teachers’ mental and physical health.
And yet, teachers are fighting back. They’re mobilizing colleagues, parents, and community members who share their faith in the freedom to read, the freedom to think critically, the freedom to challenge small-minded provincialism. Their stories of frontline resistance, collected here, provide a battle plan for confronting censorship, rallying support, and mobilizing a grassroots defense of public schools.
Their gripping testimonials are enhanced by a timeline that situates today’s far-right war on public education in the context of American history, moving briskly from Reconstruction to the anti-left and anti-gay fearmongering of the McCarthy era to the Black Lives Matter movement to the Trump presidency.
Terrifying, infuriating, and inspiring, Trouble in Censorville sounds the alarm for a democracy on fire.

Rebekah Modrak is a Professor at the Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan. She is an artist and writer who analyzes and critiques consumer culture, including COVID-era privatization of public education as parents began to refer to teachers as “public servants,” subsidized by their tax dollars and therefore answerable to them as consumers.

Nadine M. Kalin is a Professor in the Department of Art Education in the College of Visual Arts and Design at the University of North Texas. She teaches courses in the areas of curriculum and pedagogy, pre-service art teacher preparation, and socially engaged art and is author of the book The Neoliberalization of Creativity Education.