The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) recently held its “Together Educating America’s Children” conference in Washington, D.C., where educators and activists convened to discuss various issues related to education and social justice. The conference schedule revealed a strong emphasis on LGBTQ education and promoting a woke social justice agenda in schools.
Affirming LGBTQIA+ Identities in the Classroom
One of the sessions at the conference was titled “Affirming LGBTQIA+ Identities in and out of the Classroom.” Led by educators committed to anti-racist practices, the session aimed to tackle policies that hinder acceptance and celebration of the LGBTQ community. Participants were encouraged to reflect on their own prejudices and work towards transforming school culture to create an identity-affirming space.
Addressing LGBTQ Issues with Young Students
Another session, “Using Teachable Moments to Create Welcoming Classrooms,” specifically focused on addressing LGBTQ issues with young students from Pre-K to 5th grade. Led by LGBTQ activists, the session provided age-appropriate responses to common questions about LGBTQIA+, gender, and family topics. The goal was to create inclusive and welcoming classroom environments for all students.
Emphasizing LGBTQ Inclusivity for TGNCNB Community
For grades 3 and above, the session “The TGNCNB Inclusive School and Classroom” delved deeper into LGBTQ inclusivity. The session aimed to explore the social and emotional needs of the transgender, gender nonconforming, and nonbinary (TGNCNB) community. Cisnormativity, which can limit both cisgender and TGNCNB individuals, was discussed, emphasizing the importance of inclusivity in education.
Other Topics Covered in the Conference
Aside from LGBTQ education, the conference covered a wide range of topics related to social justice and equity. Sessions included lessons on diversity, cultural appropriation, anti-racism, unconscious racial bias, and integrating climate change into various subject areas. The AFT also sponsored the development of a disinformation curriculum toolkit to address misinformation and critical thinking.
Civics Education and Honest History
A notable program featured AFT President Randi Weingarten addressing the “state of civics education” in U.S. schools and how teachers can teach “honest history.” Participants were invited to play “Democracy Bingo” with Weingarten. Additionally, the AFT launched a hotline called “Freedom to Teach and Learn” to report instances of book banning and challenges against curricula.
Relevance Amid National Test Score Declines
While the conference focused on these critical topics, it’s worth noting that national test scores showed declines in math and reading due to COVID-19 lockdowns. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, who also spoke at the conference, emphasized the need for schools to redouble their efforts and use available resources to help students recover from learning loss.
Overall, the AFT conference addressed essential topics for educators and activists to ensure inclusive and equitable education for all students, with a focus on promoting social justice and embracing LGBTQ identities in the classroom. The discussions and strategies shared at the conference are expected to have an impact on education policies and practices across the United States.