Photo illustration by Matt Chase

In his seminal work Mythologies , French philosopher and critical theorist Roland Barthes announces that “Myth is a type of speech.” And not simply any type of speech, but a dangerous kind. Myth is problematic, he says, because it allows a fictional brand of naturalism to subsume history. It creates a false narrative that the way things are is the way things are meant to be, leaving ample room for injustice to flourish.

Recently, the playwright Jeremy O. Harris tackled one particular section of American mythos: education. And, in typical Jeremy O. Harris fashion, his exploration is complicated.

I went to see Harris’ fantastical play “Yell: A ‘Documentary’ of My Time Here” in a state of fear and excitement, wondering what dirty laundry he would air about my then-future intellectual home.

Elizabeth Stice 6-20-2019

In May, Gordon College announced it would no longer have a history major as a result of its restructuring. Two months earlier, Wheeling Jesuit University reduced their programs down to eight, eliminating non-professional programs and even theology. These are just two recent responses to the economic challenges currently facing nearly all Christian institutions of higher learning. Across the country, as small religious schools are in a struggle for survival, they are cutting programs and closing their doors. The distress beacon for Christian higher education is currently blinking.

Andrew J. Wight 6-05-2019

Wayuú student shows the solar cell he built in a science workshop at the Ricardo Gomez School in Manaure, La Guajira, Colombia. Photo credit: Daniel López @dlopezphotography

On June 20, a rocket is scheduled to blast off from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, USA, carrying a precious cargo: a solar cell science project from Nestor Epinayu, 16, and his fellow science club members from a small indigenous community in Colombia. More than just a children's science project, solar energy plays a huge role in bringing electricity to this community in La Guajira, on the border with Venezuela.

Jay Wamsted 4-29-2019

Image via Wikimedia Commons 

Many white Americans want racial reconciliation to be like Borges’s legend. Like my relative’s friend, they want race and racism to be “over.” They think that Black and indigenous populations should forget that we stole their land and their bodies, made ourselves rich off their goods and their labor. After all, most white people have forgotten these facts. Slavery and manifest destiny are in the past, they protest; the civil rights movement has guaranteed equality for all — it even led to a black president. Instead of listening and entering into dialogue — the true beginning of reconciliation — they square up in the kitchen and declare racism “an excuse.”

Jay Wamsted 3-26-2019

How do I explain this to Simon, the fact that large-scale neighborhood segregation too often goes hand in hand with economic deprivation. How do I tell him that it’s not that white people aren’t allowed, it’s that they are exercising their power to opt out? That Brown v. Board could only open school doors for black students, that it couldn’t keep white students from walking away? In other words, how do I explain the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow to a young child?

Amy Fallas 2-07-2019

Martin Luther King Jr. at a press conference for the 18th Ecumenical Student Conference in Ohio. Bola Ige of Nigeria is on the right. Dec. 27, 1959. Photo courtesy of Ohio University Digital Collections, Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections.

On Dec. 30, 1959, over 3,000 Christian students gathered in Athens, Ohio, at the 18th Ecumenical Student Conference. Participating youth leaders and activists developed methods of engaging with social and political transformations at the turn of the 1960s. One of the key speakers was a 30-year-old Baptist preacher who emphasized a religious as well as civic prerogative for students, claiming: “whenever a crisis emerges in history, the church has a role to play.” While the specific crisis Martin Luther King Jr. referred to was the fight for civil rights in the segregated American South, he urged Christian students to challenge injustice undergirding all systemic discrimination, oppression, and racism at home and abroad.

Joe Kay 1-24-2019

John M. Chase / Shutterstock.com

Let's ask ourselves: Are we adults doing the best we can to teach young people what they need to know? What daily example are we setting for them in how we act and which leaders we endorse?

In my research and experience as a teacher educator, I have found social studies curricular materials (textbooks and state standards) routinely place indigenous peoples in a troubling narrative that promotes “Manifest Destiny” – the belief that the creation of the United States and the dominance of white American culture were destined and that the costs to others, especially to indigenous peoples, were justified.

Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson gives the keynote address at the closing reception for the SNCC Digital Gateway Project in March 2018. Photo from SNCC Vimeo

Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson is co-executive director of the Highlander Research and Education Center in Tennessee, an organization founded in the 1930s as a “folk school” to train labor organizers throughout Appalachia and the South. In the 1950s, Highlander was an incubator for the civil rights movement, with trainings led by Septima Clark and Ella Baker. By the 1990s, the center supported anti-strip-mining battles in Appalachia and linked mountain organizers with anti-globalization efforts around the world. Today, Highlander draws on the strengths of immigrants, students, and other local leaders in the rural South to build popular education programs that advance cultural organizing for justice. Former Sojourners editorial assistant Faith Zamblé interviewed Henderson in July.

Faith Zamblé: How would you describe your work at the Highlander Center?

Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson: I describe it as a grand inheritance. I was 31 or 32 when I became the first black woman to be co-executive director of the Highlander Center. And I inherited 86 years of people’s stories and experiences and movement legacy. But with that legacy comes a great responsibility to make sure that the Highlander Center isn’t just a living museum, where people come to study what was; it should also be a place where people can learn how to do things now. It’s living in the past, present, and future at the same time, every day, all day.

the Web Editors 10-17-2018

ProPublica has released a new interactive database that allows users to examine racial disparities in more than 96,000 individual public and charter schools, and 17,000 districts across the United States.

You can search the racial composition of individual schools and also compare school districts on issues of opportunity, discipline, segregation, and achievement gap.

In America’s children, we often see hope for a better future, especially when it comes to reducing racism. Each new generation of white people, the thinking goes, will naturally and inevitably be more open-minded and tolerant than previous ones. But do we have any reason to believe this? Should we have faith that today’s white kids will help make our society less racist and more equitable? Previous research has had mixed findings. So in order to explore more fully what white kids think about race, I went straight to the source: white children themselves.

Mr. Hagans sits with students of Eagle in the PRIDE room. Image via Eagle Academy. 

Wood’s work revolves around suggesting solutions for teachers to bring empathy into the classroom, especially when working with students of color and disability.

Teachers pack the state Capitol rotunda to capacity, on the second day of a teacher walkout in Oklahoma City, Okla., April 3, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford

On Monday, April 2 the teacher walkout in Oklahoma began. How did we get to this point and what role does faith play in what is going on here?

Image via Rafael Ozen / Yad Ben-Zvi Institute

“There are hundreds of web pages of Holocaust denial” in the Arab world “but almost nothing in Arabic that combats this denial,” Saadoun said. “We’re teaching Arabs about their own history.”

Jeff Hoagland 1-23-2018

Every year, U.S. public schools suspend enough students to fill 45 Super Bowl stadiums—nearly 3.5 million, amounting to nearly 18 million missed days of school. It’s a policy that negatively affects learning of all students, but in the United States, of course, there is also a racial gap: Studies show students of color are suspended at three times the rate of white students.

Kaitlin Curtice 10-09-2017

Image via United Nations Photo/Flickr.

So we need to at least have the conversation, and for children who are home from school for the “holiday,” we should encourage families to talk honestly about what the history of Native peoples has looked like in the United States. We should be talking about what our history books are missing.

Image via RNS/AU

After a quarter-century, the Rev. Barry Lynn is retiring as head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

In court, in congressional hearings, and on cable television, Lynn has led the fight against school-sponsored prayer, religious symbols on public property, and any law that allows government to privilege people of faith.

Image via The Associated Press  

Sen. Todd Gardenhire, a Chattanooga Republican and the bill's sponsor in the Senate, notes that the state has already invested in the students by paying for their K-12 education, and that some have lived in Tennessee as long as their counterparts who are U.S. citizens. Yet they are required to pay three times what other in-state students pay to attend college, he said.

Image via RNS/Adelle M. Banks

The pro-Trump evangelicals suffer from a spiritual crisis, not a political one.

Moore has challenged the foundations of conservative evangelical political engagement because they desperately needed to be shaken. For 35 years, the old-guard religious right has uncritically coddled, defended, and promoted the Republican Party.

the Web Editors 1-25-2017

Image Via a katz / Shutterstock

"While many of us were inspired by our time at Calvin College to make education a professional commitment, Mrs. DeVos was not. She has never worked in any educational institution as an administrator, nor as an educator. If the position of the Secretary of Education requires the individual to have an intimate knowledge of the tools used by educators, which we believe it does, Mrs. DeVos does not qualify."