From leaders on the front lines of the battle for academic freedom in higher education, an empowering collection on fighting back against anti-CRT policies, book banning, and more

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Product Code: 9328
ISBN: 9780807045152
Publisher: Beacon Press
Pages: 240
Published Date: 04/09/2024
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Price: $24.95

Spanning over 40 years of contested history through to today, The Right to Learn speaks out fearlessly against the far right’s decades-long war against intellectual freedom. This essential anthology outlines and contextualizes the culture wars’ demonization of critical race theory, Ron DeSantis’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, and other hot-button issues.

With an introduction that places the current crisis within the broader context of the ongoing attacks on American democracy, The Right to Learn features the testimony and analysis of activists, scholars, and attorneys with first-hand experience in the struggle against well-funded conservative groups’ assaults on academic freedom. An impassioned, inspired resource for those fighting on the ground for the right to learn, this anthology is structured in three parts designed to equip educators with the necessary tools to understand the battle—and to fight back.

PART 1 explores educational gag laws, featuring, among others, PEN America staff members Jonathan Friedman, Jeremy C. Young, and James Tager.

PART 2 offers perspectives on key issues from those on the front lines: activists, educators, and attorneys like Dennis Parker, director of the National Center for Law and Economic Justice.

PART 3 investigates the implications of undermining academic freedom, with insight from experts such as Sharon D. Wright Austin, one of the professors barred by the University of Florida from testifying against a restrictive voting rights law and a plaintiff in the main legal case against Ron DeSantis’s “Stop WOKE Act.”

As they confront today’s attack on higher education, The Right to Learn’s expert contributors reveal that what’s at stake is the pursuit of the real-world and contemporary knowledge a democratic polity requires.


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Contents

Foreword, by Irene Mulvey

INTRODUCTION
A Time for Faculty to Act
Valerie C. Johnson, Jennifer Ruth, and Ellen Schrecker

PART I—THE CURRENT CULTURE WAR
CHAPTER 1
Academic Freedom and Political Repression from McCarthyism to Trump
Ellen Schrecker
CHAPTER 2
A Koch-Funded Racial Backlash: Understanding the Critical Race Theory Moral Panic
Isaac Kamola
CHAPTER 3
The Rise of Educational Gag Orders
Jonathan Friedman, Jeremy C. Young, and James Tager
CHAPTER 4
The Epistemology of Ignorance and Its Impact on Democracy and Higher Education
Valerie C. Johnson

PART II—WHITE RAGE, TWISTED LAWS, AND PATRIARCHAL CONTROL
CHAPTER 5
Knowledge and Good Community Organizing Can Counter the “Divisive Concepts” Campaign
Kevin McGruder
CHAPTER 6
Subverting the Intent of the Fourteenth Amendment
Dennis Parker
CHAPTER 7
“Don’t Say Gay” and Can’t Be Trans: Behind the Anti-LGBTQ+ Schooling Agenda
Sonnet Gabbard, Anne Mitchell, and Heather Montes Ireland

PART III—COLLECTIVE ACTION AND VISIBLE RESISTANCE
CHAPTER 8
The Resolutions: Mobilizing Faculty Senates to Defend Academic Freedom
Jennifer Ruth
CHAPTER 9
Silence Gets Us Nowhere: Faculty Responses to Anti-CRT and Divisive Concepts Legislation
Sarah Sklaw
CHAPTER 10
Academic Freedom: It’s a Question of Job Security
Helena Worthen and Joe Berry
CHAPTER 11
My Battle to Preserve Academic Freedom at the University of Florida
Sharon D. Wright Austin
CHAPTER 12
Florida Faculty Unions and the Struggle for Public Education
Katie Rainwater
CHAPTER 13
Schools of Education Under Fire
Marvin Lynn, Michael E. Dantley, and Lynn M. Gangone

Appendix
List of Contributors
Notes

“Over the past decade, the Right’s assault on American higher education has become openly authoritarian, taking as its model Viktor Orbán’s decimation of Hungary’s universities. The Right to Learn is the most compelling response to date—and one of the most important books ever published about higher education in the United States. Read it right now.” —Michael Bérubé, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor, Pennsylvania State University, and author of What’s Liberal About the Liberal Arts? Classroom Politics and “Bias” in Higher Education

“This timely and urgent volume historicizes contemporary attacks on the right to read, think, and write, connecting the struggle for academic freedom to broader social and political movements for justice. By turns deeply personal and sharply analytic, contributors describe not just how we got here but, crucially, where we must go next in the fight for the world we want.” —Emily Drabinski, 2023-2024 president of the American Library Association

“Book banning, education gag orders, threats to school boards and attacks on teachers: Where is it all coming from? Why? Read this bracing, essential book to understand—and to learn how you can help stop the wrecking of our public schools.” —Nancy MacLean, author of Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America

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