Jacob Goodwin: Teaching Civics in an Age of Book Bans
Jacob Goodwin is the New Hampshire 2021 History Teacher of the Year. Writing for The Progressive, he explains how to properly fund schools and uphold the Pledge of Allegiance (the one that his students say each day in his classroom).
In 2021, reactionaries coalesced to ban the teaching of honest history in states like New Hampshire and Oklahoma with legislation that intimidates teachers with the threat of revoking professional credentials. They paired restrictions on teaching with an expansive privatization push in the form of vouchers. Both of these acts are currently being challenged in the courts. Yet they formed a powerful one-two punch of restricting intellectual freedoms for public school students while sending money to private and religious schools. This was a hard-hitting blow to the reputation of the historically independent “live free or die” state.
Unimpeded by a sense of pride in our legacy of quality public schools, reckless officeholders abandoned tradition for the new national trend of smashing public schools and neglecting their public responsibility. These destructive politicians see the great potential of our public schools—the last best hope of an inclusive multiracial, multiethnic democracy—and have made a calculated decision to create chaos, promote vouchers for the rich, and destabilize communities.
New Hampshire’s GOP has pushed school vouchers expanded to serve as subsidies for the wealthy while defunding the public schools.
If teachers are to be nation-builders, then states and communities must be school-builders. We do this by investing in physical school buildings, but also by providing children with the food and care they need to do their best each day and ensuring fair wages for educators.
It’s past time that we demand more from leaders, who should be raising pay for educational professionals, not raising penalties for reading children’s books. This includes a guarantee that each student is getting the food they need to function and learn, a key part of ensuring an honest education for all, not just for those who can afford it.
Diverting public money away from public schools is not in the interest of our students or the health of our democracy. A positive agenda that is responsive to the long-term interests of our communities is what we need now—and that means prioritizing our public schools.