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Recap and Reflection of AACTE and AERA Joint Session: Youth, Censorship, and Academic Freedom

Youth, Censorship, and Academic Freedom Panel

The white folk of Altahama voted John a good boy, – fine plough-hand, good in the rice-fields, handy everywhere, and always good-natured and respectful. But they shook their heads when his mother wanted to send him off to school. “It’ll spoil him, – ruin him,” they said; and they talked as though they knew. (W. E. B. Du Bois, 1903/2015, p. 173)

This excerpt is a great representation of the fear fueling the push behind the call for censorship of critical race theory (CRT) and stages the focus of a Deeper Dive session at the AACTE 2022 Annual Meeting for educators to discuss how to address some of the challenges related to the threat that banning CRT has on American democracy. The “AACTE and AERA joint session: Youth, Censorship, and Academic Freedom” was moderated by Marvin Lynn (Portland State University), and the panelists were Michael Dantley, (Miami University) Kimberly White-Smith (University of La Verne), and Jacob Easley (Touro College). The discussion started with recapping the timeline of efforts to constrain teaching about race in higher education, followed by organizing faculty and staff, the role of education leaders in advancing social justice, and how to work with state and national organizations to address issues of education and censorship.

The call for action was made for higher education leaders to strategically utilize their leverage at their institutions to continue the fight for social justice and embed racialized narratives in professional development curriculum for teacher and leadership preparation programs. Panelists shared the following key points:

  • Support teachers to teach an honest curriculum
  • Learn how to convert research findings into legislative documents
  • Train students and faculty how to talk to legislators
    • Develop talking points
    • Follow up with them and letting them know how we feel about the decisions they are making that impact our schools in our community
  • Combating racial supremacy has been a focus of education for a long time
  • Based on the works of Cornell West, we must have a comprehensive response to the logics of white supremacy
    • There must be a counter story to the logics of White supremacy
  • Leaders must have a type of aggressive pessimism
    • Have the courage to calling things as they are in a way that says we can do something about it
  • Leaders need to be radical; have the courage to speak up
  • Use data to identify issues
  • Make curriculum revisions
    • Cause students to deal with race in preparation programs

Also shared during the session were the three focus areas for the AACTE Social Justice Taskforce:

  1. Continue to focus on profession al development
  2. Partner with national organizations
  3. Communicate with members what AACTE is doing in the area of Social Justice

Typed of Social Justice Leaders graphic

Tommy Silas is a third-year doctoral candidate at the University of North Florida and Holmes Scholar who is an assistant principal at a type 1 urban alternative school for students two or more grade levels behind their age-appropriate peers. His focus is on perspectives of district leaders and school leaders on alternative school leaders’ instructional acumen to lead traditional schools.



Du Bois, W. E. B. (2015). The Souls of Black Folk: Of the coming of john (p. 173). First Yale University Press. (Original work published 1903)

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