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October 24, 2023

ICYMI: COSF Executive Director Shares What Toni Morrison Teaches Us About School Board Races  

Washington, D.C. - Today, Heather Harding, Ed.D., the Executive Director of the Campaign for Our Shared Future (COSF) released a blog post for “The Unbiased Classroom” focused on what Toni Morrison teaches us about school board races. Harding’s piece comes exactly two weeks ahead of Election Day for many states across the country.

Read an excerpt from: “What Toni Morrison Teaches Us About School Board Races

“We are in the midst of a great distraction. The last Unbiased Classroom post discussed how Extremism in Education is on the Ballot. And while that is certainly true - with  just two weeks until Election Day in many states across the country, I also need to warn families and voters about the threat of distraction. 

As a mother and lifelong educator I have long wished for education to be a top issue in our electoral politics. Yet, now with education issues front and center in many school board,  gubernatorial, and presidential elections I find myself wanting to say “this is not what I meant.”

In the last few years, we’ve seen extremist groups and radical politicians launch attacks on the true and complete teaching of history with disturbing changes being made to curriculum including removing any reference to race from the Rosa Parks story. Last school year there were more than 3,300 challenges to books in public school classrooms and libraries, a 33% increase over the prior year, nearly 600% more than in 2019. And about a third of states have passed restrictions on how teachers can discuss race and gender-related topics in the classroom. These vague  and confusing laws have caused educators to self-sensor in order to avoid attacks that have driven celebrated teachers, librarians, and principals from their roles. 

And all of this turmoil ultimately hurts our students. 

As the great Toni Morrison once said ‘the function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.’

Now, while not all of these attacks are innately rooted in racism, these attacks serve the same purpose. They are intended to stoke fear and division in our communities and capitalize on frustrations that came to a head during COVID-19. Instead of focusing on the very real issues facing our schools - ensuring students can read and write, the mental health crisis, school funding, and the teacher shortage crisis - we are being distracted by politically motivated arguments. We must not let them keep us from doing our work.”

You can read the full post here.


The Campaign for Our Shared Future (COSF) is a non-partisan effort to support high-quality K-12 education and preserve access, inclusion, and meaningful content in our schools so that every student has an opportunity to succeed and thrive. COSF is a common ground effort committed to fighting the attack on education across the country.

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