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Black woman choosing a book at a library

Freedom to Learn

Protecting the right to an honest and culturally inclusive education.
All children deserve well-trained and supported educators and curriculum to help them reckon with our past and shape our future. Together, we can make that happen.

How to use this toolkit

  • Read about the importance of honesty in education, take action, and get involved with the movement
  • Find art to help you communicate your opinions and express your emotions
  • Learn how to talk about this issue effectively and respectfully, particularly with those who think differently
  • Explore resources to help you learn more about addressing hard truths about our country's past

Support Honest & Accurate Education


No matter our color, background, or ZIP code, we want our kids to have an education that imparts honesty about who we are, integrity in how we treat others, and courage to do what’s right. We also want educators to feel supported when teaching these important lessons.

Together, parents, educators, and students can demand that our schools have the resources to meet every child’s needs with well-trained and supported teachers, and a curriculum that helps them reckon with and shape our future. Find resources and actions below to help protect our students freedom to learn.

View the Freedom to Learn Model School Board Resolution Template


How we speak about issues is of critical importance in activism. Use these narratives for creative and social media content, visuals, public messages, calls to action, spokesperson materials, and more.

3 Key Narratives

The Freedom to Learn

Every student, of every race and in every place, deserves the freedom to learn from a quality educator in a safe and just public school. Great public schools are places where students feel safe, have a sense of belonging, and can receive an education that prepares them for the real world. Where parents and educators work together so each student has the support and opportunity they deserve to thrive and pursue their dreams.

Prioritizing Students over Politics

A handful of politicians are stoking social and racial division, putting some students into boxes, banning books from shelves, and censoring our history. They care more about their political careers and agendas than our students. They are driving great educators out of the profession and taking funding away from public schools for vouchers. 

Politicians Aren't Curriculum Experts

But they can help America’s students by ensuring all children attend well-resourced schools with an accurate and inclusive 21st Century curriculum that prepares them for the future.

Engaging with your Community

Our neighborhood public schools are meant to inspire imagination, cultivate critical thinking, and ensure our children can live fulfilling lives. By coming together, we can more deeply engage our school board and school community to ensure opportunity for all. 

NEA President Becky Pringle delivers the keynote address to the 2021 NEA Representative Assembly.
These dangerous attempts to stoke fears and rewrite history not only diminish the injustices experienced by generations of Americans, they prevent educators from challenging our students to achieve a more equitable future.
Quote by: Becky Pringle, NEA President

Say This, Not That

Say this
Use active language to make it clear that certain people created the problem. Describe the reasons bad actors attempt to distract, fuel fear and divide us across race, gender, and origin.
Resorting to partisan finger pointing—use the more general "some politicians" or "some elected officials."
Say this
Provide specific, tangible actions people can take, such as attending school board meetings, voting in elections, and contacting officials.
Using war or battle metaphors and terminology (ex. “fight”).
Say this
Seize the moral high ground and engage on our terms. With attention on education, let’s talk about the teaching and curricula we support and connect to desired outcomes and a call to action.
Using the phrase “critical race theory.” This is an academic term, unfamiliar to most audiences, and the right has co-opted it as an all-purpose dog whistle.
Say this
Ascribe motivations to the opposition. Talk about why they’re attacking curricula and educators.
Unwittingly repeating the opposition's talking points in order to dispel their claims (e.g., “we are not teaching grade-schoolers about XYZ”).

What the Research Says

An established body of research affirms what educators have long known: Culturally responsive and racially inclusive education—including the study of the social, political, economic, and historical perspectives of our nation’s diverse racial and ethnic groups—benefits students. Learn how championing honesty in education creates a learning environment where students are more academically engaged, develop a stronger sense of personal empowerment, perform better academically, and graduate at higher rates.
Culturally Responsive and Racially Inclusive Curriculum

Culturally responsive and racially inclusive education imparts students with a sense of self and of the world that leads them to be informed, critical, and socially responsible citizens.  

Learn More >

Ethnic Studies

Interdisciplinary ethnic studies help foster cross-cultural understanding among both students of color and white students, and helps student value their own cultural identity while appreciating the differences around them.  

Learn More >

Know Your Rights

Protect yourself as you work for justice.
back of an educator with a bullhorn at a rally protest

Teach Truth: Know your Rights FAQ

Learn about your rights and protections regarding censorship and teaching about racism, sexism, and historical prejudice, sometimes incorrectly called "critical race theory.”
A march against vouchers in utah

Find your Guide

Access state-specific guides for teaching culturally-inclusive curricula that includes historical facts about our country.
School Me Podcast logo

Listen to our Podcast

NEA’s General Counsel Alice O’Brien on what critical race theory is, what it isn’t, and what educators need to know to protect honesty in education and themselves.

Support Students’ Freedom to Read

Support Students’ Freedom to Read

When students are given a choice in what they read, as well as support and time to read, they thrive. NEA’s Read Across America offers several classroom resources to celebrate the freedom to read, including a list of educator-recommended books that have been banned or challenged.
Freedom to Read Poster

Freedom to Read Artwork

Find posters, bookmarks, and more to show your support for banned books and freedom from censorship in the classroom.

Sign the Freedom to Read Pledge

We’re joining together to make sure every student has to look no farther than the shelves of their own school libraries to find age-appropriate books that show they are reflected and respected.

A Future that Includes All of Us

Marley Dias—activist, author, and NEA’s Read Across America Ambassador—speaks about why we need to ensure there are more books that help kids see themselves as protagonists in their own real-life stories.

From Our Partners

Resources to Support Racial Justice in the Classroom



Black Lives Matter at School aims to spark an ongoing movement of critical reflection, honest conversation, and impactful action in school communities to help people engage with issues of racial justice. Find stories, resources and ideas highlighting Black Lives Matter at School from across the country.
Two women carry a "I Pledge to Teach the Truth" poster at a march

Teaching Hard History

These resources for middle- and high-school educators include Learning for Justice's grades 6–12 framework, as well as student-facing videos and primary source texts to help all students grasp the historical significance of slavery. Educators will also find teaching tools and professional development resources.
1619 Project logo

1619 Project

The 1619 Project is an initiative by The New York Times Magazine that aims to reframe the country’s history by highlighting narratives about slavery and the contributions of Black Americans.
sarah mulhern gross

How We Defend Our Freedom to Learn

Despite a push by certain lawmakers to prevent educators from teaching about systemic racism and sexism, these educators are committed to teach the truth and advocate for honesty in education. Find inspiration in their efforts.

Are you an affiliate?

Jump to updates, opportunities, and resources for NEA state and local affiliates.
3 activists hold a banner protesting immigration policy

Take Action on Racial & Social Justice

We are on a mission to dismantle unjust systems, and together, as educators and allies, we can take actions to address the inequities that result from institutionally racist policies and practices in our schools and the communities in which our students live. Join us to work for access and opportunity for all students.
National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.