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CCCC Statement on Teaching and Learning about Race, Racism, Critical Race Theory, and Social Justice in the College Curriculum

Conference on College Composition and Communication
March 2022

The National Council of Teachers of English (the umbrella organization of the Conference on College Composition and Communication) previously cosigned the AAUP “Joint Statement on Efforts to Restrict Education about Racism” in June 2021, affirming that teachers and students “deserve nothing less than a free and open exchange about history and the forces that shape our world today.”

Since the affirmation of that statement, however, legislative efforts throughout multiple states in the US have sought to undermine students’ educations about racial history and racism under the umbrella of objections to critical race theory (see, for example, the 2021 article “Legislating against Critical Race Theory, with Curricular Implications in Some States” and PEN America’s “In Higher Education, New Educational Gag Orders Would Exert Unprecedented Control Over College Teaching” by Young and Friedman).

As the CCCC Executive Committee, we support both academic freedom and academic responsibility. The professional roles of educators—as those trained in a range of content and instructional methods—are unacceptably undermined by this legislative overreach. We affirm the importance of using all the theoretical and scholarly tools available to support student learning, including scholarship of critical race theory, disability studies, and feminist and gender justice, among others.

Faculty in writing studies should have agency in designing educational experiences that are historically accurate and that attend to practices of rhetorical ethics and equitable literacy education more generally. There is no question that the disciplinary studies of language, composition, and rhetoric take place within larger power systems (e.g., colonialism, white supremacy, capitalism, patriarchy, heteronormativity, and other structurally asymmetrical power relations that shape our world). Writing teachers need to support students in recognizing the full range of linguistic and rhetorical tools that can be used to reproduce and reinforce such power systems. Writing teachers need to support students in learning to speak and write in service of exposing and dismantling injustices produced by those systems. This work can only be accomplished through historically accurate, honest, well-informed course readings, writing assignments, and classroom conversations.

As an organization and a field of practice, we are committed to resisting attacks on curricula and pedagogies that make visible legacies of racial oppression. Likewise, we are committed to supporting curricula and pedagogies that work toward equity and social justice. Our organization’s mission is as follows:

CCCC advocates for broad and evolving definitions of literacy, communication, rhetoric, and writing (including multimodal discourse, digital communication, and diverse language practices) that emphasize the value of these activities to empower individuals and communities.

In the interests of empowerment, we object to mischaracterizations and erasures of injustices as well as denial of persistent inequities.

We call upon other institutional entities within higher education (for example, administrators and offices) to join us in our resistance to legislative bodies and actions that seek to undermine our responsibilities as educators.

This position statement may be printed, copied, and disseminated without permission from NCTE.

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