New online cohort M.Ed. in Social Studies Education at UBC: Curriculum, Historical inquiry, & Pedagogy (CHiP)

Master of Education: Curriculum, Historical inquiry, & Pedagogy (CHiP)

Issues of equity, diversity, and social justice serve as foundational lenses for interrogating social studies curriculum and pedagogy.

This graduate program delves into key aspects of social studies curricula with connections to historical thinking, historical consciousness, visual culture, anti-oppressive and anti-racism education, gender studies, moral education, and the history and politics of curriculum.

The cohort-based model invites you to work through the program in a collaborative community of practice. Students in this program will construct strong, foundational knowledge about teaching and learning in social studies. Building on that base, you will investigate the ways in which inquiry, inter-culturalism, and 21st century teaching and learning are central to social studies education.

By the end of the 26-month program, students will have a wealth of knowledge to share. During the first semester of the program, incoming students will have a chance to learn from graduating students though a mini conference where they will share what they have learned and consider how it can help other Social Studies teachers in their contexts.

This program is offered by the Department of Curriculum & Pedagogy at the University of British Columbia

Start Date: July 2025
Length: 2.5 years | Part-Time
Format: Online


Through the program, students will consider theories, principles, and practices in social studies education related to:

  • Critical analysis of dominant and alternative theories of learning, teaching, and assessment in Social Studies,
  • Improvement of practice through the study of educational theory, philosophy, and practice in Social Studies,
  • Analysis of different approaches to curriculum development and implementation and their impact on social studies teaching and learning,
  • The place of curriculum and pedagogy for social studies education in historical context, understanding the social, political, economic, and cultural factors that direct past, present, and future decision making, and
  • Using an inquiry stance toward your professional practice as an educator in a variety of settings.

Additionally, students will continually reflect on what they are learning and consider how it can help them understand the aims and purposes underlying social studies curricula in their contexts. This knowledge can then be used to inform new practices in their educational contexts.

More information here.

Video Interview: “Desafios e possibilidades para a educação histórica em um mundo neoliberal” / “Challenges and possibilities for history education in a neoliberal world”

In November 2022, I had the honour giving the keynote address at the National Meeting of Researchers in History Teaching (XIII Encontro Nacional de Pesquisadores do Ensino de História – XIII-ENPEH) organized by the Brazilian Association of History Teaching (Associação de Ensino de História – ABEH).

Subsequently, the talk — “Desafios e possibilidades para a educação histórica em um mundo neoliberal” / “Challenges and possibilities for historical education in a neoliberal world” — was published as a chapter in the book Os presentes do Ensino de História: (re)construções em novas bases  / The gifts of History Teaching: (re)constructions on new bases,  edited by Luis Cerri (State University of Ponta Grossa) and Juliana Alves Andrade (Federal University of Pernambuco).

Below is a a link to a video interview that was conducted last month with my Brazilian colleagues including professors Cerri and Andrade and the president of ABEH, Prof. Maria Lima (Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso do Sul). The interview covers quite a bit of territory including the politics of  history and social studies education and their role in construction of a more democratic society, critical teaching and the dangers it entails, plus organizing and action for educational and social change.

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UBC Graduate Students for Palestine: UBC Senate sides with genocide

Below is a powerful statement from the UBC Graduate Students for Palestine in response to the University of British Columbia Senate rejection of a motion to suspend academic ties with Israeli governmental entities, including public universities, directly involved in the ongoing genocide of Palestinians.

UBC Graduate Students for Palestine is an anti-colonial, anti-racist, and feminist collective committed to the liberation of occupied Palestine.

This article was published June 27, 2024 in The Ubyssey, the UBC student newspaper.


Editor’s note: This article was submitted by Yara Ahmed, a PhD candidate in the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice, on behalf of Graduate Students for Palestine.

On Monday, June 3, the UBC Vancouver Senate rejected a motion to suspend academic ties with Israeli governmental entities, including public universities, directly involved in the ongoing genocide of Palestinians.

While senators debated the motion over Zoom, Israeli forces bombarded homes in al-Bureij refugee camp in Gaza, slaughtering at least 11 Palestinians, including Rewan Ghanem, her husband and their baby daughter.

The motion itself was modelled on two former academic suspension motions passed by the Senate. The latest, which ended six UBC partnerships with Russian public universities, was swiftly and almost unanimously approved within two months of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. That motion specifically condemned the targeting of civilians and “civilian facilities, including hospitals and universities.”

Yet eight months into the livestreamed extermination of Palestinians in the Gaza concentration camp, and with the full knowledge that Israeli Occupation Forces* (IOF) have murdered more than 36,000 Palestinians, most senators could not bring themselves to defend Palestinians’ lives, human rights and academic freedom. Out of step with over a decade of UBC organizing for Palestinian liberation as well as months of global student protests, our senators’ dismal failure to hold UBC’s Israeli partner entities equally accountable to international law reflects both their own moral and intellectual inconsistencies as well as the depth of institutional anti-Palestinian racism at UBC.

Indeed, the motion cited the International Court of Justice (ICJ)’s January 26 ruling that the Israeli settler-colony is plausibly violating Article III of the Genocide Convention of which Canada is a signatory. It referenced the ICJ’s May 24 order that the Israeli government immediately halt its military offensive and other attacks on Palestinians in Rafah. It included the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court’s application to issue arrest warrants for Benjamin Netanyahu and Yoav Gallant for war crimes and crimes against humanity, notably the use of starvation as a weapon of war. It reported the United Nations Human Rights Council’s findings that the IOF is committing crimes against humanity by systematically and intentionally destroying housing, services, and civilian infrastructures, including every single university in Gaza.

In short, the motion came with rigorously researched receipts that made clear that anyone serious about UBC’s self-professed commitments to human rights and equality would support it. By instead breaking with the precedent set in previous academic suspension motions, and making an exception for Israeli institutions participating in the genocide of Palestinians, senators proved that human rights only apply to those regarded as human. Palestinians do not meet their mark.

Statements submitted by Israeli university presidents and others against the proposed motion repeatedly raised ‘academic freedom’ as a justification for maintaining UBC’s ties to Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, which all partner directly with the IOF and global arms manufacturers to design and produce weapons used in the ongoing genocide of Palestinians. Specifically, they claimed that suspending UBC’s partnerships with these institutions would ‘limit’ academic freedom. However, the motion itself did not even prevent individual faculty members from participating in independent research or funding agreements with Israeli academics and universities. What the motion actually called for is the severing of academic ties on an institutional level, which was widely supported in the case of Russia as “the only non-violent way we have to respond to these egregious actions [in Ukraine].” Why, then, did senators invoke academic freedom against the motion to suspend agreements with three Israeli entities complicit in settler-colonialism, occupation and the global military-industrial complex?

As one student senator speaking in favour of the motion astutely asked, “Whose academic freedom is at stake? Who benefits from these exchanges and at what cost? And what efforts has UBC made to defend Palestinians’ right to exercise academic freedom given that all of Gaza’s universities lie in ruins?” What is clear from their questions is that a narrow vision of academic freedom has been used by those opposing the motion to distract from its real purpose: doing what we can from our position at UBC to stand against genocide. Those against the motion wield academic freedom as an individualistic and restrictive neoliberal principle which sanctifies Canadian and Israeli settlers’ ‘choice’ to participate in courses and exchanges, irrespective of their social, political and environmental harms.

This appeal to academic freedom dismisses the brutal crushing of Palestinians’ right to education while wailing at the mere suggestion that UBC students could choose a summer abroad program at a university that isn’t directly involved in an ongoing genocide; such a position is deeply intellectually disingenuous, cynical and exemplary of the kind of racism Palestinian students and faculty endure on university campuses. For instance, the statement submitted by the HU President, waxing lyrical about the institution’s “extensive protection of academic freedom and freedom of speech,” conveniently omitted the university suspension of Palestinian feminist scholar Dr. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian this March after she publicly condemned the genocide. Hebrew University, which hosts an Israeli army base on campus, has a long track record of attacks on Palestinians’ academic freedoms, from threatening expulsions for anyone expressing solidarity with Palestinian political prisoners on hunger strike to suspending students for singing about the olive harvest.

Moreover, it is telling that some of the same UBC senators clutching their pearls at the mere thought of suspending three exchanges with Israeli institutions never raised the same concerns for academic freedom during the Senate discussion on the motion to suspend six academic partnerships with Russian entities. Notably, when severing partnerships with public institutions that were deemed complicit in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, this motion was seen as necessary to uphold UBC’s social responsibilities to the global community; taking such an action was also seen as commensurate with their institutional expectations of neutrality. That asking the same commitment of the Senate now is presented as an affront to academic neutrality betrays the racist weaponization of neutrality against Palestinians.

The fact that UBC has multiple Israeli partnerships and no partnerships whatsoever with Palestinian universities is proof that it has never been ‘neutral’ when it comes to the settler-colonial occupation of Palestine. By actively maintaining ties with institutions that have directly participated in land-theft, the racist Israeli apartheid system and the ethnic cleansing of Indigenous Palestinians for decades, UBC administrators have chosen to side with those responsible for the ongoing genocide. It is soul-crushing to see most senators remain so staunchly committed to the pretence that renewing these ties with Israeli universities is a ‘neutral’ stance amid the genocide. Doing so requires a wilful dismissal of the well-documented evidence of their central role in settler-colonial violence against Palestinians, an erasure of Palestinians’ vital contributions to knowledge production, and a reinforcement of a system of anti-Palestinian racism at UBC.

Perhaps most galling were the statements submitted by people opposing the motion which claimed that they “supported” Palestinian rights, but not this specific motion on the spurious basis that they thought it was an “ineffective” way to advance those rights. Implicit in this dismissal of the motion’s “effectiveness” is the demand that a solution to Israeli settler-colonial violence which does not hold any Israeli institutions accountable be presented. This excuse for inaction on the part of UBC is fundamentally colonial when such partnerships give academic cover to institutions participating in the ongoing genocide of indigenous Palestinians.

To those who question the “effectiveness” of suspending academic ties with Israeli institutions, we pose a question that Dr. Maya Wind asks in her book: “Is there any Palestinian resistance movement that you might ever—or that you have ever—recognized as legitimate?” If senators cannot do the bare minimum to hold Israeli universities accountable to international law, then clearly their actions are not supportive of Palestinian human rights and anti-colonial resistance.

The Senate vote will forever stand as a disturbing and defining moment in UBC’s history — one that shows that this institution is not, as it likes to boast, among the world’s leading centres of education. When administrators are determined to embrace genocidaires and frame those partnerships as a meaningful contribution to the academy regardless of the violence they perpetuate, how are we to take their professed ‘commitments’ to human rights and equality seriously? The real academic stewards today are the growing number of universities which have already suspended ties with Israeli entities in the name of Palestinian human rights a more liberatory, responsible and just conception of academic freedom and a consistent application of international law. From Spain to South AfricaBelgiumNorwayFinlandthe NetherlandsMexicoBasque Country and Slovenia, these universities are modelling what UBC has failed to realize: our intellectual responsibility toward a more just world with a Free Palestine.

*Author’s note: While the Israeli army has branded itself as the “Israeli Defence Forces,” we insist on the use of the term Israeli Occupation Forces here to, we believe, more accurately reflect their role as a settler-colonial army.

This is an opinion article. It reflects the author’s views and does not reflect the views of The Ubyssey as a wholeContribute to the conversation by

The Social Studies Curriculum: Purposes, Problems and Possibilities (5th Edition) — discount code

SUNY Press discount code for The Social Studies Curriculum
The fifth edition of The Social Studies Curriculum: Purposes, Problems, and Possibilities will be published later this year by State University of New York Press.

The Social Studies Curriculum, Fifth Edition updates the definitive overview of the issues teachers face when creating learning experiences for students in social studies. The book connects diverse elements of the social studies curriculum – social issues, history, cultural studies – offering a unique and critical perspective that separates it from other texts. The social studies curriculum is contested terrain both epistemologically and politically and this completely updated book includes new chapters on politics of social studies curriculum, historical perspective, critical historical inquiry, Black education and critical race theory, whiteness and anti-racism, decolonial literacy and decolonizing the curriculum, gender and sexuality, Islamophobia, critical media literacy, evil in social studies, economics education, anarchism, children’s rights and Earth democracy, and citizenship education. Readers are encouraged to reconsider their assumptions and understandings of purposes, nature, and possibilities of the social studies curriculum.

Here’s a preview of the Table of Contents as as well as a a PDF of the book’s preface and introduction:



Introduction:  Curriculum Ideologies, Social Studies Traditions, and the Teacher-Curriculum Encounter
E. Wayne Ross

Part 1: Purposes of the Social Studies Curriculum

1. It is All Indoctrination: Power and the Impossibility of Apolitical Social Studies Curriculum
Wayne Au

 2. A Curricular Reading of Historical Perspective, Agency, and Viral Futures in Social Education
Kent den Heyer

3. A Critical Media Literacy Analysis of Social Studies Education
Emil Marmol

Part II: Social Issues and the Social Studies Curriculum

4. Beyond the Nation-State: A Foundational and Black Diasporic Examination of the Politics of Black Educational Curriculum
Christopher Busey & Tianna Dowie-Chin

5. The Politics of Black History in the United States: Black History Mandates and Anti-Critical Race Theory Laws
LaGarrett J. King, Brianne Pitts & Daniel Tulino

6. Does Social Studies Want to be Anti-Racist? Thoughts on Decentering Whiteness in Curriculum
Andrea M. Hawkman

7. Social Studies as a site for Building Decolonial Literacy
Shannon Leddy

8.Settler Social Studies: On Disappointment and Hope for the Future
Sarah Shear & Leilani Sabzalian

9. A Queer Agenda for Gender<>Sexuality and Social Education
Sandra J. Schmidt

10. Responding to Islamophobia in the Classroom
Özlem Sensoy

Part III: The Social Studies Curriculum in Practice

11. Critical Historical Inquiry: Disrupting the Dominant Narrative
Cinthia Salinas & Brooke Blevins

12.Studying Evil in Social Studies
Cathryn van Kessel

13. Does She Even Go Here? Economics and its Place in Social Studies Education
Erin C. Adams

14.An Eco-Anarchic Social Studies: Teaching for Children’s Rights and Earth Democracy
Brandon Edwards-Schuth & John Lupinacci

15.Teaching for Critically Engaged Denizenship: Lessons from Morocco on Teaching for an Empowered Other Civic Status
Jennice McCafferty Wright

16.Dangerous Citizenship
E. Wayne Ross

Part IV: Afterword

17. What is the Future of Social Studies Curriculum?
E. Wayne Ross


Keep the Israeli Government out of BC schools!

Via Teachers for Palestine BC:

BC parents and allies are coming together to demand that the BC Ministry of Education and the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) take action to protect BC’s education system from encroachment by the the Israeli government and their lobby groups in Canada.

Join the action by sending a letter through this campaign and sharing it in your networks!

For context:

In the past few weeks BC teachers, schools, and the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) have been unjustly smeared in the Globe & Mail and Vancouver Sun. The contents of these articles are mostly taken from a press release from CIJA (the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs), a lobby group with goals to ‘increase support for Israel’ and to ‘strengthen the Canada-Israel friendship’. They contend that:

1. That the BC Curriculum does NOT cover the Holocaust.
2. That unionized BC Teachers as part of the BCTF are refusing to teach about the Holocaust.
3. That the Ministry of Education should sideline existing working groups developing the next BC Curriculum – and let CIJA affiliated groups help develop curriculum for children in BC public schools instead.

While Holocaust education is important and new resources, which are in the process of being developed through the ministry, are always welcome, this is already a longstanding part of the BC curriculum and that BC teachers have been teaching about it across grade levels. The raising of this issue by CIJA in this specific moment largely plays the role of redirecting the conversation away from Israeli war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories. They are also about trying to push the controversial IHRA definition of anti-semitism, which is contested in Jewish communities for being vague and silencing of criticism of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian people.

To date, the BCTF and the Ministry of Education have done nothing to defend BC teachers, the system of education, or the BCTF’s internal democratic processes from CIJA’s smears and interference. Our students deserve better from our education leaders! Be part of demanding that they take appropriate action by:

1. Calling out allegations made by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) against BC public schools as false.

2. Sending a letter to the editor of the Globe and Mail demanding the retraction of an inflammatory and egregiously false article about the BC curriculum.

3. Affirming that no prejudice, including Anti-Palestinian Racism has any place in BC Schools, public media, or our society.

4. Commiting to the public that no more private meetings and negotiations between the Ministry of Education or BCTF and CIJA will take place without the presence of Canadian groups that represent other Jewish voices, such as Independent Jewish Voices or the Jewish Faculty Network.

Thank you for demanding better from our education leaders by sending a letter through this campaign or sending your own personalized message!

CAFA’s statement on: Academic freedom and peaceful protest on university grounds

Academic freedom and peaceful protest on university grounds

CAFA Statement No. 1/2024
21 May 2024

In recent months, universities in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, and Peru, among other countries in the Americas, have been the sites of widespread, intense protests, including occupation of university buildings and/or establishment of encampments on campus, over the war in Gaza. Media outlets and human rights organizations have reported cases of mass illegal/arbitrary detention, the disproportionate use of force by security officers, and arbitrary restrictions on and retaliation for student assembly and expression (including expulsions and suspensions). Further, reports of religious and ethnic violence, harassment against members of the higher-education community, including antisemitic, anti-Muslim, and anti-Arab incidents raise grave concerns.

The Coalition for Academic Freedom in the Americas (CAFA) documents and monitors restrictions on and attacks against academic freedom and university autonomy, and their impact on democracy, justice, and rule of law. CAFA calls on higher-education authorities and public officials to take available measures to ensure a safe space for the free and open exchange of ideas on campus. This includes the respect and protection, within the limits established by law, of the rights to academic freedom, freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, the right to protest and personal security on campus.

As recognized in the Inter-American Principles on Academic Freedom and University Autonomy, members of higher-education community, including students, benefit from “(…) the right to express oneself, to assemble and demonstrate peacefully in relation to the topics being researched or debated within that community in any space (…)”. In democratic societies, universities are centers to discuss ideas and situations of public interest, critically and respectfully. This principle must be respected by all stakeholders.

As stated in the Principles for Implementing the Right to Academic Freedom, members of the higher-education community “(…) have the right to engage in expression and discourse with persons and groups inside and outside the academic, research and teaching sector”. Consistent with this, the Canadian Association of University Teachers has stated that restrictions “(…) on freedom of expression and protest can only be justified with clear, objective and demonstrable evidence of danger to persons, serious violations of the law, and major disruptions to the essential operations of a university or college”.

International human rights law recognizes that the right to protest may include a temporary disturbance and inconvenience to daily life. As the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has determined, the “(…) occupation of buildings, whether public or private, constitute a legitimate form of protest. Any restriction on these demonstrations must be exceptional, necessary, and proportional”.

Higher-education authorities must therefore refrain from taking measures which inappropriately limit peaceful expression on campus or threaten to sanction students or other members of the higher-education community for exercising their rights to free expression, assembly, and academic freedom. On the contrary, higher-education institutions should take all available measures to foster, protect, and model healthy, public debate.

The heated debates surrounding the war in Gaza demand a renewed commitment, by all stakeholders, to the values at the heart of a healthy university. We call on the states and on higher-education authorities to protect and promote academic freedom and institutional autonomy across the Americas, including taking available measures to ensure the rights of free expression and assembly on campus, and in all events, by refraining from engaging in undue restrictions on these rights. We likewise call on all stakeholders – including higher education authorities, public officials, students, educators, and members of the public – to ensure that campuses are spaces of learning, respect, and open debate, free from violence and intimidation, hate speech, harassment, and discrimination, including antisemitism, anti-Muslim and anti-Arab hate.

JFN-UBC Statement of Solidarity with the UBC Encampment for Gaza

JFN-UBC statement on UBC encampment for Gaza


JFN-UBC Statement of Solidarity with the UBC Encampment for Gaza

We write as the UBC chapter of the Jewish Faculty Network to strongly support the rights of the UBC students in the encampment to peacefully protest in solidarity with Palestine. As Jews, we are appalled by the death, destruction and displacement that Israel has brought upon the people of Gaza, including the killing of more than 30,000 people, nearly half of whom were children, and the destruction of the healthcare system. As academics, we are shocked by the obliteration of all universities in Gaza.

We reject the misleading notion that these protests, or other protests against Israel, are inherently antisemitic. Neither are displays of Palestinian cultural and political identity, including keffiyehs and Palestinian flags. The conflation of anti-Zionism with antisemitism is a dangerous and bad-faith tactic that has been used to repress critics of Israel, including many Jewish people like ourselves.

A number of Jewish faculty (including some wearing obvious symbols of Jewishness) visited the UBC encampment and found the mood welcoming and friendly. Many other Jewish students and community members are actively involved. The encampment has made it very clear in their community guidelines and external communications that antisemitism and all forms of discrimination are strictly prohibited.

Calls for police force to be used against students, in order to protect against an unsubstantiated threat to Jewish students should be treated with the very greatest skepticism and concern. Having seen the unnecessarily violent response to peaceful encampments across North America, we are extremely concerned for the safety of students at UBC.

We hope that those who feel uncomfortable about current protests will consider learning more about the conditions the students are protesting, and about the broader histories of non-violent protest, in Palestine and Israel, as well as within the Palestinian and Jewish diasporas. We especially encourage the reading and open discussion of literature and journalism by Palestinian writers.

As people who have dedicated our lives to supporting students in their pursuit of higher education and in their development as human beings, our students are constantly teaching and challenging us. We certainly do not have to agree with everything our students say or all of their demands. However, it is our responsibility as educators, and the responsibility of

universities like UBC, to ensure all learners can exercise their right to free expression, and make their own, difficult decisions about how to fulfill the responsibilities we all have to current and future generations, without the threat of violence, arrest, or suspension.

Our students are inheriting a world in crisis, but they remind us every day that another world is possible. We stand with the UBC students who are trying to bring that world into existence in many different ways, including through protest. We implore the university to rethink its approach to police presence on campus and commit to upholding students’ rights.

UBC Apartheid Investment database

The UBC Social Justice Centre is an AMS UBC Resource Group dedicated to research, outreach, & action on social justice issues. The SJC has recently reported an analysis of UBC investments in a document titled UBC Apartheid Investment Data Base. Thanks to the SJC for providing this revealing analysis of university investments in the war machine that current waging war in Gaza. The following is a reproduction of the report as presented @ubcwarinvestments

In 2022, The University of British Columbia invested a total of CAD$66,550, 168 in firms that are active agents in 1) the illegal settlement enterprise in the occupied West Bank, and/or 2) the ongoing genocide of Palestinians in Gaza.

The following tables, ordered by industry, display information about these companies. This includes their name, the specific role they play in maintaining the occupation and/or participating in the genocide, and the amount of UBC endowment money they receive.

The data presented in this report were obtained from the 2022 UBC Investment Management Trust’s (IMANT) “Holdings Disclosure Report.” To determine which of these complicit companies were invested in by UBC, the report was cross-referenced with a 2020 United Nations Human Rights Council database of business enterprises that build, maintain, and legitimize illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The list also includes firms widely understood to be complicit in violations of Palestinian human rights-the numerous weapons manufacturing companies that UBC invests in, which supply arms to the Israeli military, are included in this latter section.

As UBC lists the endowment holdings in percentages, the dollar amount was estimated by using overall value of the endowment, although the dates of the holdings disclosure report do not fully match up with the reporting dates for the endowment fund value. The value of the endowment fund was reported to be $2.09 billion on March 31st, 2023 while the holdings disclosure was reported on December 31st, 2022. It should still be a decent estimate though assuming each fund grew somewhat evenly over the three months. For comparison, the value of the fund on March 31st, 2022 was $2.06 billion.

Download database: UBC apartheid investments

Gaza and the Growing Attack on Social Justice Teaching

Gaza and the Growing Attack on Social Justice Teaching

By the editors of Rethinking Schools

Illustrator: Lincoln Agnew

Twenty-two million public school students, almost half of all children going to public schools, now live in states that have enacted restrictions on anti-racist teaching.

As a result, a 2023 RAND Corporation survey found that nearly two-thirds of teachers in the United States decided to limit discussions about political and social issues in their classrooms. The combination of repressive laws, takeovers of school boards, and firing or disciplining anti-racist and LGBTQ-inclusive educators has been a successful strategy for the right — causing teachers across the country to leave the profession and encouraging many who have stayed to avoid “controversial” topics.

Israel’s war on Gaza and the simultaneous crackdown on dissent has given another boost to the forces of repression. As this editorial went to print, Israel was starving Gazans by blocking food and aid while preparing a ground invasion of Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city, previously labeled a “safe zone” to which the Israeli military had pushed more than 1.5 million Palestinians. The death toll in Gaza reached more than 31,000 — more than 13,000 of whom are children. Indeed, in November, when the death toll was much lower, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned Gaza was becoming “a graveyard for children.” Other U.N. officials — another demographic Israel’s bombardment has killed at alarming rates — have described conditions as “the worst ever” humanitarian crisis, a “living nightmare,” which is “absolutely unprecedented and staggering.”

At the beginning of March, almost all schools in Gaza, more than 70 percent of which “have sustained damage,” were being used as shelters for the 1.7 million internally displaced people. (For more on the attack on children and education, see ”Israel’s War on Gaza Is Also a War on History, Education, and Children”) The healthcare system was near total collapse with only 12 out of 36 hospitals “partially functional,” overwhelmed and unable to provide basic medicine and care.

On Jan. 26, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that there is a “real and imminent risk” that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza and, despite falling short of demanding Israel suspend its military operations, ordered six provisional measures to “prevent irreparable harm” to Palestinians. The case against Israel, brought by South Africa, documents an unfolding genocide against the Palestinian people, including “intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population, civilian objects and buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science, historic monuments, hospitals, and places where the sick and wounded are collected; torture; the starvation of civilians as a method of warfare; and other war crimes and crimes against humanity.” It includes more than a dozen public admissions from Israeli political and military leaders like that of security cabinet member Avi Dichter that Israel is “rolling out the Gaza Nakba” — referring to the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and seizure of land in 1948.

Yet despite the mounting evidence, and despite being taken to federal court for its failure to prevent this unfolding genocide, the Biden administration refuses to even place conditions on the more than $10 million in aid the United States provides Israel daily. Indeed when Israel, shortly after the ICJ ruling and without evidence, accused 12 U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) staff of being involved in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, the Biden administration immediately announced that it would cut aid to UNRWA — the largest humanitarian aid organization in Gaza. The United States is now funding genocide while simultaneously defunding those attempting to prevent it.

Educators of conscience everywhere should be — and are — discussing this in the classroom. But teachers who attempt this difficult task have been met with increasing repression. Even showing support for Palestinians online has been cause for disciplinary action.

Four teachers in Montgomery County, Maryland, were placed on administrative leave for public expressions of support for Palestinians. A charter school in Los Angeles fired two 1st-grade teachers and placed their principal on leave after one teacher revealed on Instagram they had taught a “lesson on the genocide in Palestine.” School authorities placed another 1st-grade teacher in Palm Beach, Florida, on administrative leave after she sent a letter to her district’s leadership asking them to “publicly recognize the Palestinian community” in their communications about the crisis. The Decatur, Georgia, school district suspended their equity coordinator for sharing “Resources for Learning & Actions to Support Gaza.”

Fueled at the highest levels of government, this is part of a broader crackdown on those who speak up for Palestinian rights. After a congressional hearing where mostly Republican lawmakers grilled the presidents of Harvard, MIT, and the University of Pennsylvania for five hours about Palestinian rights activism on their campuses and falsely equated that activism with antisemitism, two of the three presidents — including Claudine Gay, Harvard’s first Black president — resigned. Four universities — Columbia, Brandeis, George Washington, and Rutgers — have suspended campus chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine. The campus chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace was also suspended at Columbia. In Arizona, Tom Horne, the same state superintendent who led the campaign to shut down Tucson’s exemplary Mexican American Studies program, urged school districts to bar student clubs like Amnesty International and UNICEF because they “generate antisemitism among impressionable young people.”

This suppression of dissent — largely focused on educational institutions — is part of the broader wave of restricting social justice teaching. Like the educators removed for teaching about racial justice or creating safe and welcoming spaces for LGBTQ+ youth, many of the teachers accused of antisemitism are veteran educators with long histories of fighting racism and oppression.

Although antisemitism is certainly on the rise alongside a resurgence of white nationalism — most infamously on display in 2017 as demonstrators chanted “Jews will not replace us!” at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville — this white supremacist antisemitism is not what these anti-racist educators are being disciplined for. Indeed, many of the loudest voices equating criticism of Israel with antisemitism are encouraging the white supremacist resurgence. Take for example Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who led the House inquisition against university presidents. She previously ran campaign ads parroting the white supremacist “great replacement” theory: the idea that elite politicians are attempting to replace white Americans and their influence with non-white immigrants. “Radical Democrats” are planning a “PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION,” claimed her ad, “Their plan to grant amnesty to 11 MILLION illegal immigrants will overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington.” She also slammed New York’s plan to reopen schools after the COVID-19 pandemic — a plan that mentions racism four times in 263 pages — as “using COVID funds to force the radical and racist critical race theory agenda on our children.”

When Claudine Gay resigned as president of Harvard, Christopher Rufo, the architect of the conservative assault on anti-racist teaching, celebrated on Twitter, now rebranded as X. He wrote, “SCALPED.” In referring to the practice of white colonists who collected gruesome trophies as they sought to exterminate Native Americans, Rufo was claiming Gay’s resignation as a victory for the movement he helped initiate.

These racist pundits and politicians are escalating their suppression of anti-racist voices by mislabeling legitimate criticism of Israeli policy as antisemitism. Not only does this ignore the Jews across the country who have been at the forefront of the movement for a cease-fire, it also dangerously ties the fate of the Jewish diaspora to the war crimes of the Israeli government — strengthening real antisemitism. This harmful conflation is fueled by statements like President Biden’s at a White House Hanukkah event where he said, “Were there no Israel, there wouldn’t be a Jew in the world who is safe.” And it is also powered by school administrators who recklessly label teachers antisemitic and discipline them for attempts to teach about Palestine.

At an online forum titled “Fighting Antisemitism Through the Lens of Collective Liberation,” Jewish Voice for Peace Action Political Director Beth Miller explained,

All of these resolutions, these hearings, these speeches, this language coming out of the highest-ranking folks in our government, what it is doing is actively endangering Jewish communities and it is actively endangering Palestinian communities and excusing and fueling the ongoing genocide against Palestinians. Because to be clear: There is rising antisemitism in this country and it’s scary. And there is rising anti-Palestinian racism in this country and it is scary. And what Congress is doing is fueling both of them at the exact same time.

It is not the educators attempting to discuss the crisis in Gaza in their classrooms who endanger Jewish and Palestinian students — but those silencing these discussions and in doing so, preventing a deeper understanding that lifts up a diverse range of Jewish and Palestinian voices, and includes a critical look at what is — and what is not — antisemitism. (See “No, Anti-Zionism Is Not Antisemitism” introducing a new lesson to bring these discussions into the classroom.)

Despite how frightening it can feel as social justice educators at this moment, the more we let our fear silence us the more we allow this campaign of terror to win and creeping fascism to take hold. Instead, we should understand and take hope in the reason this backlash has grown in intensity: More people than ever are refusing to stay quiet in the face of racism and injustice. As author Naomi Klein — whose excellent chapters on the diverse Jewish intellectual tradition in her new book Doppelganger are now publicly available online — stated in a recent webinar when asked about the repression of critics of Israel, “The thing is that they cannot silence as many people as are speaking up right now. This is just in my view, one of those courage moments. Stick with it. It’s working. That’s why you’re getting so much propaganda thrown at you.” Indeed, the larger backlash against social justice teaching is an effort to roll back the many gains made during and after the 2020 Black Lives Matter uprising — where an unprecedented number of people took to the streets for racial justice.

So while being a social justice teacher right now can feel isolating, we are not alone. In December, several Rethinking Schools editors went to the National Council for the Social Studies conference and attended Amanda Najib’s session on Palestine. With standing room only, it was one of the most well-attended sessions at the conference. A growing number of teacher union locals from Seattle to Chicago to Massachusetts have called for a cease-fire. Despite intense repression, nearly 100 teachers signed up to participate in the Oakland, California, educators teach-in for Palestine. (See “What We Learned from Our ‘Oakland to Gaza’ K–12 Teach-In”) On Jan. 20, more than 90 teachers spent the day learning about and discussing how to teach about Palestine at a conference in Oakland put on by the Middle East Children’s Alliance. Our Zinn Education Project continues to average about 1,000 new registrants every month. It is clear there continues to be a growing hunger for social justice curriculum.

It’s more important than ever to build networks of solidarity and mutual aid — spaces where we can share how we are teaching about difficult topics like Gaza, where we can build a curriculum to challenge the dominant narrative that what is happening in Palestine began on Oct. 7, where we can defend one another in the face of repression. That is the task before us: to knit together and strengthen the networks of teachers, parents, and students that can take bold action and muster the defiance necessary to break through the backlash.

And we should draw courage from an understanding that any risks we face do not compare to the risks faced by those under Israel’s bombs — made in the U.S.A. As Palestinian poet Refaat Alareer, killed in an Israeli airstrike along with six members of his family on Dec. 7, powerfully pleaded:

If I must die,
you must live
to tell my story . . .
If I must die
let it bring hope
let it be a tale.

Teach Palestine: A Rethinking Schools Webinar

Teach Palestine

May 15 at 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm CDT

Join Rethinking Schools for a webinar on the spring issue of Rethinking Schools, Teach Palestine. Panelists will offer stories, examples, and concrete strategies for teaching truthfully and critically about Palestine-Israel. At a time when the attack on social justice teaching has dramatically expanded as part of the crackdown on opposition to U.S. aid to Israel, it is essential that we support and learn from each other.

Participants will need access to Zoom.

ASL Interpretation will be available.

The event is free. To make events like this available to more educators and activists, we would greatly appreciate your solidarity donation. Your donation will directly support the expansion of our work and help us get resources to more teachers during this crucial time.