Trey Kay Published

Us & Them: Educators Worry About Pushback Against Racial, Gender Studies In America's Schools

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Books Under Fire
Us & Them Team

America’s public schools are once again in the crosshairs of our nation’s culture wars.

Some parents want more say in what and how their kids are taught — especially topics like racial history and gender studies. These parents say schools are pushing a social agenda they don’t agree with. The call for more parental involvement includes increased challenges to the books used in classrooms.

Last year, those cases quadrupled with challenges against nearly 1600 individual titles. Educators worry that the pushback against classroom materials can also achieve a broader goal — to challenge teachers with policies and laws that restrict what and how they can teach.

For this episode of Us & Them, host Trey Kay speaks with Tiffany Justice, co-founder of Moms for Liberty and education historian Adam Laats.

Listen toThe Great Textbook War, which is about the 1974 Textbook Controversy in Kanawha County, WV.

Listen toThe Long Game: Texas’ Ongoing Battle for the Direction of the Classroom, which features the story of conservative textbook activists Mel and Norma Gabler.

This episode of Us & Them is presented with support from the West Virginia Humanities Council, the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation and the CRC Foundation.

Subscribe to Us & Them on Apple Podcasts, NPR One, RadioPublic, Spotify, Stitcher and beyond.

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These are some of the titles Texas State Rep.Matt Krause notified the Texas Education Agency that he is “initiating an inquiry into Texas school district content,” according to anOct. 25 letter obtained by The Texas Tribune.

Krause’s letter provides a16-page list of about 850 book titles and asks the districts if they have these books, how many copies they have and how much money they spent on the books.

The lawmaker’s investigation sought to identify books that pertain to race or sexuality or “make students feel discomfort.”


Maus book cover

In January 2022, a Tennessee school district voted to ban the graphic novel Maus, which is about the Holocaust, due to “inappropriate language” and an illustration of a nude woman.

Art Spiegelman won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for the work that tells the story of his Jewish parents living in 1940s Poland and depicts him interviewing his father about his experiences as a Holocaust survivor.

Adam Laats, Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Educat

Jonathan Cohen
Binghampton University
Adam Laats, Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Education.

Adam Laats taught middle and high school for ten years in Milwaukee. He earned his PhD in U.S. History at the University of Wisconsin—Madison in 2007. He is a professor of education at Binghamton University and studies the history of American education.

He is particularly interested in the history of cultural battles over schooling and school reform. His books have examined the campaigns of conservative evangelical Protestants in both K-12 and higher education, the history of creation/evolution debates, and the evolution of conservative thinking about K-12 education.

Laats is author of “Fundamentalist U.” and “The Other School Reformers.”


Norma and Mel Gabler

For years, Norma and Mel Gabler, a couple from Longview, TX, had a big say over what went into the nation’s textbooks and what didn’t.

Their story is one of small town activism that motivated thousands of conservatives in Texas and across the nation.

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Moms for Liberty
Tiffany Justice

Tiffany Justice started Moms For Liberty with Tina Descovich in January 2021. The group has grown into a nationwide organization of parents. Some reports show they have 70,000 members in 165 chapters in 33 states.

Moms for Liberty fights for parent’s rights. They want students to learn academic essentials, like reading. They’re opposed to any form of government that gets between them and their children.