Ms. Classroom wants to hear from educators and students being impacted by legislation attacking public and higher education, gender, race and sexuality studies, activism and social justice in education, and diversity, equity and inclusion programs.
The first women’s studies, ethnic studies, and gay and lesbian studies programs—so named at the time—were founded at U.S. universities more than 50 years ago. Since then, these disciplines have become respected in academia, offering a place for students to challenge assumptions about gender, race and sexuality.
Today, legislative attacks on these fields of study in at least a dozen Republican-led states, including Florida, Missouri, Texas and Virginia, illustrate an unprecedented overreach. These attacks—part of a widespread bid for power by reactionary politicians and organizations—show how determined these politicians are to prevent examinations of the role of gender, race and sexuality throughout history and in contemporary culture.
To aid these efforts, Republican governors have been appointing handpicked, far-right members to the boards of trustees at universities for years. Related legislation would then allow these same boards to fire faculty whose research or teaching they find objectionable.
Not only do bills restricting academic freedom have the potential to “destroy higher education,” said Leandra Preston, a senior lecturer of women’s and gender studies at the University of Central Florida, “[they] would not permit the kind of critical thought that higher education demands, allows and encourages,” or the research and learning that “leads to transformations and the kind of work that we need to help our ailing nation.”
Public education has long been both a smokescreen and a scapegoat for radical politicians to enact unpopular policies and attempt to stem the tide of progressive ideas prevalent in younger generations, said Bonnie Thornton Dill, immediate past dean of the College of Arts and Humanities and professor in the Harriet Tubman Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Maryland. Conservatives are “draw[ing] from the playbook of U.S. history and the actions to suppress and deny and repress and push back strides that Blacks have made, in particular,” she said.
Cue, a new series from Ms.: ‘Banned! Voices from the Classroom.’
What? A series of op-eds and personal reflections from those being impacted by recent U.S. legislation attacking public education; higher education; gender, race and sexuality studies; activism and social justice in education; and diversity, equity and inclusion programs. Posts included in this series may also consider the impact of other endemic issues affecting education, including but not limited to: gun violence, LGBTQ+ rights, economic precarity, censorship, and mental health.
Who? Anyone who is in the classroom or an educational institution and affected by restrictive legislation that is impacting their learning, teaching or administrative ability, as well as those who have success stories about learning/teaching/administration in the areas most widely impacted by recent attacks on education (e.g. women’s and gender studies, queer or LGBTQ+ studies, sex education, sexuality studies, disability studies, Black or Africana studies, Latinx or Hispanic studies, immigration or transborder studies, etc.). This includes students, teachers, administrators, staff, instructors, adjuncts and professors of all grade levels and ranks.
How? Submit pitches and/or completed draft op-eds* and reflections (between 500-800 words) to Aviva Dove-Viebahn at firstname.lastname@example.org. Inclusion of photos or other images welcome; please include photographer credit, if applicable.
When? Posts will be accepted on a rolling basis, with posting beginning in August 2023.
Note: For those less familiar with the genre, there are many excellent, free resources online with guidance for writing op-eds. See The OpEd Project’s resource page and the Narrative Initiative’s blog post about the power of personal narratives to start.
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