The title of this blog comes from the trailer of the film Trumbo about screenwriter Dalton Trumbo who lived through, wrote through, and ultimately beat the “Red Scare” and “McCarthyism” that censored studios, writers, and films during the 1940’s and 50’s.
NCTE and its members were not unaffected. Past President Yetta Goodman explains
“But very few people know the teachers that were brave during that period of time…teachers in California, for example, who refused to sign the loyalty oaths. And, I did sign a loyalty oath because I was just a beginning teacher and I’d spent my whole life wanting to be a teacher and to not be able to do that anymore was just very difficult for me, so I did sign. That’s the kind of fear we were under and the bravery that we had to have to do the kinds of units and studies that we needed to do and, you know, that’s still happening today…I’m just hoping that perhaps we can learn to be open to more ideas and to do things in innovative ways.”
McCarthyism spurred NCTE to take a more active stance against censorship and in 1953, NCTE’s Committee on Censorship of Teaching Materials published Censorship and Controversy, condemning McCarthy’s tactics and championing freedom of thought. In 1962 NCTE published its seminal intellectual freedom guideline: The Students’ Right to Read leading up to today’s active Intellectual Freedom Center and new position statements like the NCTE Principles for Intellectual Freedom in Education which affirms
“All students have the right to materials and educational experiences that promote open inquiry, critical thinking, diversity in thought and expression, and respect for others.”
And, it is teachers who make this possible!