Teaching Truth: Putting Students First seeks to support local school board activists in Northern Virginia who value inclusion, counter the baseless claims of anti-critical-race-theory (CRT) politics, advocate for teaching inclusive history and against the banning of books written from marginalized LGBTQIA+ perspectives and the perspectives of people of color.
Teaching Truth is a project of UUCF’s social justice and racial justice ministries. It is grounded in UUCF’s dedication to the Unitarian Universalist (UU) Seven Principles as well as the new UU 8th Principle, and is UUCF’s commitment to build brave spaces in a national atmosphere of political aggression inspired by MAGA extremists. In today’s environment, we believe it is especially vital for progressive faith communities to help present a bulwark against fascism.
See below some of the projects UUCF has undertaken as part of the Teaching Truth Campaign.
Teaching Truth projects
The Teaching Truth Teach-In was held on Sat., Jan. 15, 2022, to counter the baseless claims of anti-critical-race-theory (CRT) politics and reinforce the importance of teaching inclusive history. The date of the teach-in commemorated Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday and coincided with Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s first day in office when he vowed to “ban CRT” in the Commonwealth. The teach-in aimed to counter disinformation about CRT and lift up how quality education needs to include “teaching truth.” Organizers included UUCF, SURJ NoVa (Showing Up for Racial Justice Northern Virginia) and Emmaus United Church of Christ, with organizing and moderating support from the African American Policy Forum.
- Provide an accurate counter-narrative to lies told about teaching accurate history in our schools.
- Reinforce the understanding of why learning accurate, inclusive history is good for students and our communities.
- Offer a curriculum for those interested in having their children learn accurate, inclusive history.
- Initiate a pledge for faith communities to teach inclusive history as a critical moral calling in our efforts to learn from our history and to help build the beloved community of all souls.
This faith-driven event is also launching a year-long project to develop a free, inclusive-history curriculum for faith communities and other non-governmental organizations already in development by UUCF’s Religious Education Program.
The teach-in featured a panel of truth tellers who discussed how the lie that CRT is taught in Virginia schools has been used as a reactionary dog whistle. Panelists discussed the challenges facing educators today and how all of us can support accurate fact-based schooling.
- Tanishia Williams – Critical Race Theory Research Associate at the African American Policy Forum.
- Penny Edwards Blue – speaker, coach and author of the book “A Time to Protest: Leadership Lessons From My Father.”
- Neonu Jewell – founder and spiritual director of Niyah Center, an online interfaith, empowerment and social justice community.
- Dr. Andrea Kane – former superintendent for Queen Anne’s County Public Schools (MD), where she led initiatives to address systemic and overt racism.
- Rev. Dr. William G. (Bill) Sinkford – president of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) from 2001-09 and currently transitional minister at All Souls Church Unitarian in Washington, DC.
- Dr. James Whitfield – the first black administrator at four different schools in Texas, and most recently the much-loved principal at Colleyville Heritage High School, in Colleyville, TX, where his naming of systemic racism cost him his job.
What do we do when books are banned? Share them with neighbors! The project encourages congregants and the community to put banned books into Little Free Libraries to spread access to work that is under attack, usually because of its depiction of LGBTQIA+ people or people of color. For the project, UUCF buys some books and others are donated. Books for adults come from this American Library Association list. Children’s books come from this list. Congregants sign up to deposit a book in a Little Free Library. Part of the fun is taking a photo or video of the deposits and posting it on social media with the hashtags #unbanbooks #teachingtruth and #readingtruth. Questions? Contact UUCF’s Social Justice Coordinator Andrew Batcher.
With the hostile environment especially targeting LGBTQIA+ people at the Fairfax County School Board, UUCF has engaged with local activists, including FCPS Pride, the Pride Liberation Project, 4 Public Education and the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, to advocate for teaching true, inclusive history, access to materials that represent diversity and a non-hostile supportive school environment. UUCF members and friends have spoken at school board meetings, organized and attended rallies outside, and we have assisted with training and providing de-escalation to help ensure a space that is as safe as possible considering the hostility directed toward LGBTQIA+ people.