Activists, Advocates, and Agitators

21st Century Justice-Oriented Teacher Activist Organizations

Edited by Brianne Kramer
September 2024
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September 2024
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  • Publisher
    Myers Education Press
  • ISBN 9781975505646
  • Language English
  • Pages 325 pp.
  • Size 6" x 9"

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September 2024
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In recent years, the field of education has been fraught with a variety of different challenges. A multi-year pandemic, book banning, and legislative efforts seeking to ban Critical Race Theory and LGBTQ positive curriculum have had negative effects on K-12 education, leaving many educators feeling the progress made in several states and communities before and during the 2018 teacher walkouts and strikes was now gone. Teacher morale is sitting at a historic low point, with teachers leaving the profession in droves. Education as an institution is at a crucial tipping point, and changes focused on equity and reducing the neoliberal hold on reform need to be implemented in order to keep schools as democratic spaces. The way this vision can be realized is through activism and existing social movement organizations that use both traditional and netroots practices. The purpose of Activists, Advocates, and Agitators is to provide readers with a history and analysis of 21st century teacher activism in K-12 schools to better understand the effectiveness of organizing and activism. Additionally, the text will introduce readers to present-day activist groups whose work is positively changing education and schools and the ways in which some teachers are working within their communities to assist in their specific needs.

Activists, Advocates, and Agitators is the perfect book to instruct preservice teachers about the conditions that they will face in their classrooms, arming them with valuable strategies to help them to achieve their academic goals.

Perfect for courses such as: Social Foundations of Education; Foundations of Education; Education Policy; Educational Leadership; Teacher Leadership; Sociology of Education; Politics of Education; and Democratic Education

“Don't just close your doors – talk to one another, support each other, and above all, organize! Here are the stories of teachers who did just that, in service of social justice, confronting the scourges of standardized testing and privatization.”

Anthony Cody, co-founder of the Network for Public Education and author of “The Educator and the Oligarch: A Teacher Challenges the Gates Foundation”

"Brianne Kramer’s Activists, Advocates, and Agitators: 21st Century Justice-Oriented Teacher Activist Organizations is one of the first books to guide educators and grassroots education activists on how to weave issues of social justice in the education workspace. Brianne takes readers on a journey by example. She presents some of the great education social justice grassroots organizations in the country. She presents readers with the work of Dr. Denisha Jones, a force in the Black Lives Matter at School and the important work of the Trinational Coalition in Defense of Public Education in discussing how the privatization of education is not inclusive to the U.S. She outlines the templates for organizing used by UCORE, the Red for Ed Movement, and Teacher Action Group (TAG). Brianne has written a must-read primer for anyone interested in elevating social justice in the education space and, more importantly, how to train teachers to do the work."

Marla Kilfoyle, NBCT Educator and Union Leader for 30 years and Former Executive Director of The Badass Teachers Association (2013-2018)

Activists, Advocates, and Agitators is a timely, necessary contribution. The book offers a rare diversity of perspectives by placing leading scholars, activists, and leaders in conversation with one another as they offer essential insights on the dynamic teacher activist organizations forwarding social justice in education. Developed through both on-the-ground experiences and dynamic analyses of recent activist efforts, Activists, Advocates, and Agitators: 21st Century Justice-Oriented Teacher Activist Organizations is essential reading for anyone concerned with understanding transformative action in schools and the groups on the forefront of these efforts.”

Noah Karvelis, co-founder of the Arizona RedForEd movement

“This important new collection offers a timely and incisive investigation of teachers’ work for collective social justice in and out of schools, with robust contributions from teachers, organizers, academics, and activists. This accessible and comprehensive volume highlights the struggles and successes of radical courage and organizing in neoliberal times. This is an essential book for anyone interested collective futures in education and teaching as a social act.”

Arlo Kempf, Associate Professor, Department of Curriculum, Teaching Learning, University of Toronto and Co-editor, Routledge book series: Critical Perspectives on Teachers' Work

“Essential reading for anybody interested in the present and future of teacher activism — and public education generally.”

Eric Blanc, author of “Red State Revolt: The Teachers Strike Wave and Working-Class Politics”

Activists, Advocates, and Agitators: 21st Century Justice-Oriented Teacher Activist Organizations is, at once, a primer, a historical recounting, a guide, an instiller of hope, and a call to continued actions to disrupt the dismantling of our public education system in the United States. The contributors include union activists, scholar activists, educators, and more who refuse to allow the manufactured crises in education to serve as covers for the perpetuation of racism, classism, power/control structures, and more that undermine the possibilities of a truly democratic system of education. In this volume, we witness the work of grassroots movements and actions, with some growing into larger groups, or even morphing into national movements—all focused on initiating actions that will lead to sustained changes and processes that will celebrate and respond to unique individuals, groups, and communities. In very direct responses to attacks on communities of educators and learners via mandates, legislation, policy, and habituated actions rooted in inequities, these inspiring stories will serve as points of origin for imagining and then acting upon ideas for a future that is decent, fair, just, tolerant, and open to the cultural, linguistic, ethnic, spiritual, and educative richness that is necessary for our very survival as a democratic country.”

Rick Meyer, member of the organizing committee of Uniting to Save Our Schools, a former elementary school teacher, and faculty emeritus at the University of New Mexico.

Activists, Advocates, and Agitators: 21st Century Justice-Oriented Teacher Activist Organizations is a clear demonstration of the power of educator activism through the growth and establishments of rank-and-file movements. As a former veteran teacher and 6-year Maryland State Education Association and National Education Association Board member, I understand firsthand the importance of educator activism from the ground up through rank-and-file organizing and caucuses. Throughout my tenure as a union leader, I became more and more disillusioned with the NEA and AFT, realizing the intensely embedded bureaucratic structure and the unwavering dedication to democratic party with what seems like zero accountability demands. It was the CORE groups and other on-the-ground educator activism movements across the country described in this book that kept me inspired and motivated to keep up the fight for educational justice in my own state and county. Reading through each chapter reminded me of the pride I felt as a teacher watching educators across the country fight back against the incessant criminalization of Black, Indigenous, and brown students, anti-CRT legislation, and other racist policies and legislation. I felt the connection of the stories shared throughout this book to my own involvement in activism movements like Black Lives Matter at School, and how collective action and power can absolutely create change. I highly recommend this book to anyone in the education field, especially to Aspiring Educators seeking camaraderie and unity in union spaces.”

Erika Strauss Chavarria, Former Teacher and Former MSEA/NEA Director

“Brianne Kramer’s edited volume brings together a range of organizer-scholars-educators to document, theorize, and illustrate the movement work on various fronts that collectively make up educator resistance movements today. In the composition of the volume, Kramer centers the perspectives and analyses of educators doing the work on the ground. This is what makes this book so crucial for understanding and making visible the work of social justice education movements as it takes place over time and across diverse geographies. As the chapters demonstrate, these fronts include curricular movements for Mexican American studies and Black lives, teacher education, in the streets of George Floyd Square, in union halls and on the picket lines, in education workers’ collective inquiry spaces, on the margins of teacher education, and so many more. Together, the chapters make visible how educators build power through networked relationships of solidarity within and across these fronts. Via their intellectual work in the book, Kramer and chapter authors also, importantly, contribute to nurturing this very relational solidarity. In the spirit of the book’s aims, I think this text is best read collectively—gather your fellow activists, advocates, and agitators and read together!”

Erin Dyke, Associate Professor of Curriculum Studies, Oklahoma State University

“In this critical historical moment, where students, teachers, and communities committed to justice are under attack, I cannot think of a more important collection than Activists, Advocates, and Agitators: 21st Century Justice-Oriented Teacher Activist Organizations. This book highlights just how powerful teachers can be, even in the face of political forces that make it dangerous to even teach the truth about power and oppression.”

Wayne Au, Professor, University of Washington Bothell; Editor, “Rethinking Schools”


Part 1: Why and How Teachers Organize

Chapter 1
The Need for Teacher Activism and Organizing: An Introduction
Brianne Kramer

Chapter 2
Why Do Teachers Engage in Justice-Oriented Activism?: Reflections from Philadelphia’s Teacher-Activists
Dana Morrison

Chapter 3
Transformative Teacher Activism: A Political and Educational Awakening
Jennifer McCloud

Chapter 4
“We can join together to help fix it”: UCORE and the Movement for Social Justice Unionism
Lauren Ware Stark

Chapter 5
The Crossfires of Hate
Shiv Desai

Part 2: Teacher-Activist Organizations and Social Justice Unionism

Chapter 6
We Refuse to Be Blamed: The Badass Teachers Association
Melissa Tomlinson

Chapter 7
The Movement and the Mayor
Jesse Sharkey

Chapter 8
So We Stand: Minneapolis Federation of Teachers
Greta Callahan, Marcia Howard, & Brianne Kramer

Chapter 9
Black Lives Matter at School and the Ongoing Pursuit of Educational Justice for Black Lives
Denisha Jones

Chapter 10
National Educators United (NEU): Collective Action Outside of Formal Union Spaces
Janette Corcelius, Rebecca Garelli, Melissa Tomlinson, Stephanie Price, Katie Ehrlich, Ivonne Rovira, & Brianne Kramer

Chapter 11
NYCoRE’s Inquiry-to-Action Groups: Developing Political Education Toward Liberatory Futures in Education
Jennifer Queenan, Natalia Ortiz, & Pam Segura

Chapter 12
Privatization Doesn’t Stop at Borders: The Trinational Coalition in Defense of Public Education
Rosemary Lee & Brianne Kramer

Chapter 13
USOS: Our Part in the Struggle to Save the Public’s Schools
Becky L. Noël Smith

Part 3: Opportunities for Preparing Preservice and Current Teachers

Chapter 14
Aspiring Educators as Aspiring Organizers and Activists: A Blueprint for Action
Gerald K. Wood, Kimo Adriano Homer, Erin Hiebert, Jeff Lang, Michelle Novelli, & Christine K. Lemley

Chapter 15
Reframing Curricular Opportunities to Nurture and Sustain Critical Consciousness
Jessica Manzone & Julia Nyberg

About the Authors


NOTE: Table of Contents subject to change up until publication date.

Brianne Kramer

Brianne Kramer, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Education in the College of Education and Human Development at Southern Utah University where she teaches Social Foundations of Education courses. Additionally, she coordinates the Educational Foundations and Policy major for the Master’s of Education and Master’s of Interdisciplinary Studies programs. She earned a Ph.D. in Social Foundations of Education from the University of Toledo, and her research focuses on teacher workforce issues, diversity, equity, and inclusion, educational policy, and teacher activism. She co-edited the 2022 book Children and Trauma: Critical Perspectives for Meeting the Needs of Diverse Educational Communities. She also currently serves on the ACLU Utah Board of Directors and is a Contributing Scholar for the Policy Research-to-Policy Collaboration housed at Pennsylvania State University.

Activism; teacher activism; Advocacy; teachers' work; organizing; teacher unions; AFT; NEA; subversive teaching; power