REPORT: Famous Progressive Textbook Writers Resign Over Curriculum Edits

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Two popular textbook writers have cut ties with Heinemann, a notable textbook publisher under the umbrella of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, after the company announced new editing measures to comply with state requirements barring critical race theory and other social justice initiatives from the classroom. 

Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle, who each have published numerous textbooks with Heinemann and have a combined Twitter following of more than 100,000, resigned after Heinemann refused to do battle with states who Kittle argues “are at war with both the truth and our schools.”

The conflict stems from a 2nd Grade curriculum designed by Lucy Calkins, a seminal figure in children’s literacy despite evidence that her pedagogical strategies are ineffective. She currently serves as founding director of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University. 

According to the New York Times, the curriculum included segregating boys and girls during some class activities, “and a reference, also in teacher materials, for educators to remain mindful of children’s racial backgrounds and identities.” The Times reported that some Heinemann staff expressed concern that this material, as well as others within Calkin’s curriculum, would run afoul of laws in north of 15 states, including Texas and Florida.

As a result, Heinemann and Calkins mutually agreed to make what they called “minor edits” to the instructional materials in question. But Kittle and Gallagher objected to any edits of Calkins’ curriculum at all. To them, it was a betrayal of the “war” for equity and inclusion in education. 

“The fight for equity happens at the word level, but more importantly, at the child level. Children must be seen by all of us, heard by all of us, and celebrated in the fullness of their humanity, no matter what it costs us,” Kittle said in an email to Heinemann leadership. “We cannot wish our way into something as critical as social justice, and a company vision statement is only wishful thinking if you don’t act on it.”

“Thank you to those in the forefront of fighting for equity, inclusion, and antiracism. You have taught me much, and I continue to learn from you,” Gallagher added, noting that he was resigning as a result of decisions made above him. 

Although Kittle and Gallagher are the most notable figures to detach themselves from Heinemann, they are not alone. 

Sonja Cherry-Paul and Tricia Ebarvia, co-founders of the Institute for Racial Equity in Literacy, announced in a joint statement that “due to irreconcilable differences regarding the work of equity, inclusion, and antiracism, effective immediately, we are ending our professional development and publishing relationships with Heinemann.”

Calkins’ materials are delayed, but the editing process is expected to continue. The delay may affect as many as a quarter of 2nd Grade classrooms. 

Garion Frankel
Garion Frankel is a graduate student at Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service with a concentration in education policy and management. He is a Young Voices contributor, and Chalkboard Review’s breaking news reporter.