Teaching Radical Hope


Photo: Allison Fletcher Acosta

The young people marching near our office in D.C. (and around the country) have given us what author Junot Díaz describes as “radical hope,” the hope that was deferred last week. They also have given us tens of thousands of reasons to carry on. In his essay in The New Yorker, Díaz added,

And while we’re doing the hard, necessary work of mourning, we should avail ourselves of the old formations that have seen us through darkness. We organize. We form solidarities. And, yes: we fight. To be heard. To be safe. To be free. . . . Our ancestors did this with very little, and we who have more must do the same. This is the joyous destiny of our people—to bury the arc of the moral universe so deep in justice that it will never be undone.

Díaz describes the role of teachers on the front lines every day. To make sure our students are heard, are safe, and are free. And that they can avail themselves of the old formations in their fight for justice.

Our work at Teaching for Change will not change. In fact, we will redouble our efforts.

The day before the election, we were dedicated to providing teachers and students the tools to create schools where students learn to read, write, and change the world. Our work was urgent then and it is all the more so following the election.

Our work will also be more challenging. For example, Breitbart News Network, headed by Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon, has attacked Teaching for Change’s Zinn Education Project—saying our people’s history website should be illegal and blasting us for teaching about the long history of Muslims in the United States. Bannon will now have direct access to executive power.

While much of the media about the Trump effect on schools has focused on the hate speech, the students’ protests highlight their burning concerns about the impact on all aspects of their lives—health, the environment, civil liberties, religious freedom, gender equity, war, and more. The rhetoric is hateful and dangerous. So are many of the proposed policies.

Our students need support to learn the history of people’s movements and to move from protest to organizing. The master narrative of movements being won by individual heroes and large demonstrations won’t serve them well. They are poised and ready to learn the vital lessons of grassroots organizing, campaigns, and systems change.

We offer resources below for the classroom that address key issues such as respectful school environments, examining the politics of “divide and conquer,” other times in history when advances by people of color have faced a brutal roll back, times when people have made progress against all odds, and key issues on the Trump agenda.

Let’s help our students envision and build the future they are calling for.


Readings and Resources


Trump’s Agenda

The Zinn Education Project offers a collection of lessons on key topics on Trump’s agenda, including climate change, civil liberties, immigration, Muslims, the press, and more. Trump’s agenda covers many more topics. Check out the full list of lessons and resources at the Zinn Education Project website. (The Zinn Education Project is coordinated by Teaching for Change and Rethinking Schools.)



As students move from protest to organizing, they will need to learn the skills and strategies involved. Our Zinn Education Project offers lessons, books, films, and websites on organizing. In particular, we recommend When We Fight, We Win! for stories of 21st century activism and the experiences of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee at One Vote SNCC.


Respectful Learning Environment

The Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility has compiled an invaluable list of post-election resources for teachers to challenge bias and harassment.

We recommend reading “Getting to the foundations of hate in our schools” in the Sun Times by Gilda Ochoa and “The frightening effect of ‘Trump Talk’ on America’s schools” in the Washington Post by Mica Pollock.


White Identity

This election has highlighted the need to study the history of institutionalized racism and the formation of white identity. When and why did Italian-Americans, Irish-Americans, and more become white? Who benefited and who lost? Here are books on white identity in U.S. history and schools. Also, read Toni Morrison’s The New Yorker essay on the elections and whiteness.



For informed reporting on the issues related to the election and Trump’s agenda, we highly recommend Democracy Now! and Colorlines. For critiques of the mainstream media that can be used to promote media literacy, we recommend Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting and Project Censored.


Radical Hope

Teaching guides we turn back to at this time are Beyond Heroes and Holidays, Reading, Writing, and Rising Up: Teaching About Social Justice and the Power of the Written Word, and Teaching for Joy and Justice. For young children, there is the classic Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves.


Lessons from History



In the News

kojologoOur associate director Allyson Criner Brown was interviewed for the Kojo Nnamdi Show in a segment on November 15 called, “How Local Teachers Are Helping Students Process The Election.” She was joined by Wesley Lawson, a teacher at Richard Wright Public Charter School and Joshua Starr, CEO of PDK International and former superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools.


See also our related resource page, Teaching about Elections.





Posted Wednesday, November 16, 2016 |

Stay Connected

View Our Photos


Your donation to Teaching for Change (a 501-c-3) is tax-deductible and helps us provide teachers and parents with tools to create schools where students learn to read, write, and change the world.