Originally developed by the National Council of Teachers of English Committee on Racism and Bias in the Teaching of English, February 2007, revised July 2018
In 2007, NCTE published the original version of this statement with the help of the Committee on Racism and Bias in the Teaching of English. The statement was published in response to historical, and at that time, current examples of racism and discrimination occurring within pre-Kindergarten–grade 12 schools and institutions of higher education. Now, over a decade later, this statement has been revised to serve as a reminder of NCTE’s commitment to being an organization of anti-racist educators working toward achieving educational equity. This statement has been revised to reflect recent national examples of racism and discrimination that have taken place in schools and on college and university campuses. Included in this statement are recommendations and resources to help English and language arts educators work actively to eradicate acts of racism and discrimination in our classrooms, curriculum, schools, and institutions.
Racism consists of two principal components: difference and power. It is a mindset that sees a “them” that is different from an “us.” Racism in America is the systematic mistreatment and disenfranchisement of people of color who currently and historically possess less power and privilege than white Americans. In modern times, there has arisen a “cultural racism” that allows for ethnic groups that cannot always be distinguished from the majority, in terms of physical features, but are nevertheless subject to the same kinds of biases as those who have been traditionally marked as a different race. Racism, then, and other forms of discrimination continue to be a part of American society, continuing to affect all students and their education. The Committee Against Racism and Bias in the Teaching of English of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) is committed to working toward the eradication of racism, discrimination, and bigotry in the profession, in the preparation of teachers, and in the administrative decisions made in schools, especially in the teaching and learning of English and the language arts at all levels. Our work promotes research-based recommendations to help in counteracting racism and other forms of bigotry in teaching materials, methods, and programs for the teaching and learning of English and the language arts. Most important, the NCTE Committee Against Racism and Bias in the Teaching of English works toward positive communication and the promotion of social justice as fair and equal access to the benefits of the society, especially in terms of access to and delivery of public education.
Recently, there have been increasing incidents and forms of blatant practices, threats of physical violence, production and dissemination of racist and biased materials, and expressions of racism and other expressions of bigotry toward students of culturally diverse human backgrounds attending US schools and institutions of higher education. Specific charges and indictments have been based on intersectional identities involving hate crimes and bias-motivated incidents in public schools and higher education institutions (e.g., race; ethnicity; class; gender; age; mental and physical abilities; nationality; migrant, immigrant, and refugee status; religious affiliation; and sexual orientation). More evident, English language learners, especially from migrant and immigrant families, children, and students, have faced discriminatory practices in their attempts to access public education programs. Sadly, incidents such as these largely reflect similar incidents that took place over a decade ago when the first version of this statement was published. Recent national examples include the following institutions:
- California Polytechnic State University (San Luis Obispo, California), “Cal Poly Suspends All Greek Life After Second Racist Incident,” Inside Higher Ed, April 20, 2018
- Detroit (Michigan) Public Schools Community District, “‘Access to Literacy’ Is Not a Constitutional Right, Judge in Detroit Rules,” The New York Times, July 4, 2018
- Houston (Texas) Independent School District, “For Immigrant Students, a New Worry: A Call to ICE,” The New York Times, May 30, 2018
- Irving (Texas) Independent School District, “Muslim Boy Who Was Arrested for Building a Clock Says His Family Was Forced to Leave the U.S. for Safety,” The Los Angeles Times, August 8, 2016
- University of Missouri (Columbia) and Yale University (New Haven, Connecticut), “Racial Tensions Escalate,” Inside Higher Ed, November 9, 2015
- North Bend (Oregon) School District 13, “L.G.B.T. Students in Oregon Were Bullied and Forced to Read Bible, Report Says,” The New York Times, May 16, 2018
- Suffolk University (Boston, Massachusetts), “When Latina Student Wrote ‘Hence,’ Her Professor Assumed Plagiarism,” Inside Higher Ed, October 13, 2016
National Examples, 2006–2007
- Baltimore (Maryland) Public School System, “Race, Politics, and the Schools: Q&A: Marion Orr,” The Baltimore Sun, May 28, 2006
- Boston (Massachusetts) Public Schools, “Teens Probe Sexual Harassment in Schools,” The Boston-Bay State Banner, April 6, 2006
- Clark County (Nevada) School District, “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do — Mason Says Racism a Factor in Districting,” Las Vegas Sun, January 5, 2006
- Truth or Consequences (New Mexico) Schools, “Educators Get Support after Complaint over Racism Project,” Santa Fe New Mexican, December 20, 2006
- Winner (South Dakota) School District, “Graduating to Prison: Native Americans Sue School District,” The Progressive, February 2007
In order to ensure that all individuals have access to an education that is free of racism, bias, and other forms of bigotry, and to support the intellectual development and growth of students from early childhood education to university studies, the NCTE Committee Against Racism and Bias in the Teaching of English recommends that English language arts educators
- actively identify and challenge individual or systemic acts of racism and other forms of discrimination and bigotry in educational institutions and within our profession, exposing such acts through external communications and publications.
- express strong declarations of solidarity with people of diverse human and cultural backgrounds to eradicate forms of racism, bias, and prejudice in spaces of teaching and learning.
- promote not only cultural diversity and expanding linguistic knowledge, but explicitly push for anti-racism by participating in ongoing professional development for educators to succeed in countering racism and other forms of bigotry.
- support the enforcement of laws and policies that provide sanctions against racial and ethnic discrimination in education. Also, advocate for legislative reform that will lead to policies that provide sanctions against discrimination in education based on race, ethnicity, gender, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, class, mental and physical abilities, nationality, migrant, immigrant, and refugee status.
Furthermore, the NCTE Committee Against Racism and Bias in the Teaching of English recommends that
- all administrators secure funds and resources to provide opportunities for professional development for teachers and instructional programs that affirm cultural diversity among all students.
- all educational stakeholders—policymakers, parents, and the general public—understand that they can best support educators or teacher professionals and students by actively participating in public conversations about racism and bigotry in our multilingual and multicultural American society, defined in the key opening words of the United States Constitution’s Preamble, “We the People . . . .”
RESOURCES AND RESEARCH SUPPORTING THIS STATEMENT
Recent resources that have been distributed digitally and research results that have been discussed in national periodicals and reports are as follows:
- Bringing Black Lives Matter into the Classroom – Part II, Teaching Tolerance 56, Summer 2017
- Creating an LGBT-Inclusive School Climate: A Teaching Tolerance Guide for School Leaders, Teaching Tolerance website, October 2017
- Immigrant and Refugee Children: A Guide for Educators and School Support Staff, Teaching Tolerance 55, Spring 2017
- National School Climate Survey, The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, 2015
- The School-to-Prison Pipeline, Teaching Tolerance 43, Spring 2013
- White-Supremacist Propaganda on Campuses Rose 77% Last Year, The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 28, 2017
This document was revised by a working committee comprising the following:
Jazmen Moore, Chair – Oak Park and River Forest High School, Oak Park, IL
Logan Manning – Alternatives in Action High School, Oakland, CA
Victor Villanueva – Washington State University, Pullman
This position statement may be printed, copied, and disseminated without permission from NCTE.