The Right to Learn: Resisting the Right-Wing Attack on Academic Freedom

Regular price $ 24.95

Edited by Valerie C. Hognson, Jennifer Ruth, and Ellen Schrecker

Beacon Press

4/9/2024, paperback

SKU: 9780807045152


From leaders on the front lines of the battle for academic freedom in higher education, an empowering collection on fighting back against anti-CRT policies, book banning, and more

Spanning over 40 years of contested history through to today, The Right to Learn speaks out fearlessly against the far right's decades-long war against intellectual freedom. This essential anthology outlines and contextualizes the culture wars' demonization of critical race theory, Ron DeSantis's "Don't Say Gay" law, and other hot-button issues.

With an introduction that places the current crisis within the broader context of the ongoing attacks on American democracy, The Right to Learn features the testimony and analysis of activists, scholars, and attorneys with firsthand experience in the struggle against well-funded conservative groups' assaults on academic freedom.

An impassioned, inspired resource for those fighting on the ground for the right to learn, this anthology is structured in 3 parts designed to equip educators with the necessary tools to understand the battle--and to fight back.

  • PART 1 explores educational gag laws, featuring, among others, PEN America staff members Jonathan Friedman, Jeremy C. Young, and James Tager.
  • PART 2 offers perspectives on key issues from those on the front lines: activists, educators, and attorneys like Dennis Parker, director of the National Center for Law and Economic Justice.
  • PART 3 investigates the implications of undermining academic freedom, with insight from experts such as Sharon D. Austin, one of the professors barred by the University of Florida from testifying against a restrictive voting rights law and a plaintiff in the main legal case against Ron DeSantis's "Stop WOKE Act."

As they confront today's attack on higher education, The Right to Learn's expert contributors reveal that what's at stake is the pursuit of the real-world and contemporary knowledge a democratic polity requires.


"Over the past decade, the Right's assault on American higher education has become openly authoritarian, taking as its model Viktor Orbán's decimation of Hungary's universities. The Right to Learn is the most compelling response to date--and one of the most important books ever published about higher education in the United States. Read it right now." -- Michael Bérubé, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor, Pennsylvania State University, and author of What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts? Classroom Politics and "Bias" in Higher Education

"This timely and urgent volume historicizes contemporary attacks on the right to read, think, and write, connecting the struggle for academic freedom to broader social and political movements for justice. By turns deeply personal and sharply analytic, contributors describe not just how we got here but, crucially, where we must go next in the fight for the world we want." -- Emily Drabinski, 2023-2024 president of the American Library Association

"Book banning, education gag orders, threats to school boards and attacks on teachers: Where is it all coming from? Why? Read this bracing, essential book to understand--and to learn how you can help stop the wrecking of our public schools." -- Nancy MacLean, author of Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America

About the Editors:

Valerie C. Johnson is associate provost of diversity, equity, and inclusion and associate professor of political science at DePaul University in Chicago. Her research and teaching explore the intersections of race and class. She is the author of Black Power in the Suburbs: The Myth or Reality of African American Suburban Political Incorporation and the co-editor of Power in the City: Clarence Stone and the Politics of Inequity with Marion Orr.

Jennifer Ruth is associate dean in the College of the Arts and professor in the School of Film at Portland State University. She has written about academic freedom and higher education in publications such as the New RepublicTruthoutAcademe, the Chronicle of Higher EducationInside Higher Ed, and Ms. Her most recent book, cowritten with Michael Bérubé, is It's Not Free Speech: Race, Democracy, and the Future of Academic Freedom.

Ellen Schrecker is well known for her scholarship on McCarthyism and higher education. A retired professor of history at Yeshiva University, her latest book is The Lost Promise: American Universities in the 1960s.