Words by Tess Becker
The whitewashing of history in American schools is an ongoing issue. Whether it involves teaching about colonial figures such as Christopher Columbus, the existence of queer people or racial violence, American public schools rarely give pupils the full picture.
Today institutions around the US are beginning to ban books, exacerbating the problem. The American Library Association documented more than 2,500 attempted book bans in 2022 - the highest number since the ALA began tracking censorship data more than 20 years ago.
This is something the educational organization, The Radical Agenda, is working to address.
“Our ‘radical agenda’ is the belief that all aspects of American history need to be included in education. Our mission is to let every child see that there are heroes in our country’s history who looked like them and loved like they do,” they state.
“Knowledge inspires empathy. Empathy creates unity.”
It all started when Critical Race Theory (CRT) became a heated topic in school board meetings. At the time, The Radical Agenda founder Amanda Spencer was astounded that school staff were so vehemently against teaching about racial equality. As she watched people fighting to remove Black history from the US curriculum she decided to take action.
“I like puns, and I just kind of offhandedly mentioned, ‘Guys I'm gonna make a planner called the Radical Agenda and it's just gonna have American history facts scattered throughout and that's how I'm gonna help educate the world,” Amanda tells Smiley News. “I was just kind of laughing about it and then I sat back and thought, ‘Actually, that sounds like a really fun idea.’”
Today The Radical Agenda offers much more than the original planner Amanda created. The website has expanded to cover queer history, book reviews and the biographies of historical figures.
Amanda is full of enthusiasm as she speaks about the project.
“I have just this whole list of things and people and ideas and notes on my phone of just all the different topics,” she says. “Part of the planner is every month I have a monthly learning moment and a short essay on a first thing or a topic or an event in history that needs more background.”
Right now, Amanda works as a nurse but plans to eventually make The Radical Agenda her full-time job.
“I would love to be able to work for myself just doing all this resource work,” Amanda says. “I want to be able to do some vlogs as I take my kids to Washington DC and Birmingham, Alabama, to see all of these places and these things, tell the history, bring it to life for people and make them excited to learn the things that have been hidden from them.”
All of this is so important to Amanda because the history was hidden from her as she grew up. She hopes to prevent that happening to anyone else, opening up access to resources and education.
“It's a pattern in history and we need to look at these patterns and we need to see what's going on inside of it so that we can make change,” she says.
At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.
GLAAD. GLAAD is a massive LGBTQ+ advocacy group that helps fight for queer people across the US. Consider donating.
Lambda Legal. This organization helps fight in the courtroom for queer people. Find out more.
The Trevor Project. They focus on suicide prevention and mental health support for queer youth. Support them here.