Critical Thinking Under Fire: Upholding Academic Freedom in the Classroom

Efforts to ban certain subjects from classroom discussion are underway. Critical thinking is being suppressed & educators are at risk.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

6:30 PM – 8:00 PM CDT


Across the globe efforts are intensifying to censor study of controversial issues, notably those dealing with the study of racism and cultural diversity in public education. Providing education on these subjects is critical to confronting and dismantling systemic racism and building literacy on gender, sexuality, and identity diversity. These are core concepts embedded in human rights that are supported by international human rights guiding principles and standards.

In the US, a handful of states have recently passed legislation limiting or banning these subject areas and establishing punitive actions against educators who are seen as introducing these concepts into the classroom.

In this session we will hear from a panel of individuals who will help us to better understand the polarization of education in the US, how “divisive concepts” and CRT bans are being used to censor academic freedoms and penalize educators for doing their job to teach critical thinking. Join us and share your questions and thoughts about the role of the human rights community in this national discourse.


Astha Bhandari is a senior in high school and Amnesty International USA’s Legislative Coordinator for North Carolina. Astha is active with her school’s Amnesty International Student Group and is an advocate for greater academic freedom in the classroom.

Matthew Hawn: For 16 years, Matthew taught Economics, Contemporary Issues, and Personal Finance at Sullivan Central High School. On May 5, 2021, the Sullivan County Department of Education dismissed Matthew for teaching racial justice in his contemporary issues course. He is appealing the dismissal to the Sullivan County Chancery Court.

Svetlana Mintcheva is a strategy consultant working with program activities at the New York based non-profit, National Coalition Against Censorship ( (where she was formerly director of programs). She writes on emerging trends in censorship, organizes public discussions and mobilizes support for individual artists, curators, authors, teachers and librarians. Dr. Mintcheva is the co-editor of Censoring Culture: Contemporary Threats to Free Expression (The New Press, 2006) and of Curating Under Pressure: International Perspectives on Negotiating Conflict and Upholding Integrity (Routledge, 2020). An academic as well as an activist, Dr. Mintcheva has taught literature and critical theory at the University of Sofia, Bulgaria and at Duke University, NC from which she received her Ph.D. in critical theory in 1999, as well as at New York University. Her current research focuses on the challenges to the concept of free speech posed by social media, social justice movements and political polarization.

Jack L. Nelson: Distinguished Professor of Education, emeritus, Rutgers University. Co-author, Critical Issues in Education, 16 other books. Former professor, CSU, Los Angeles, University of Buffalo; Visiting scholar, Cambridge University, Stanford, Berkeley, Sydney, others. Former member, AAUP Committee A (academic freedom), NCSS Academic Freedom Committee, ACLU New Jersey board. Member, Amnesty International.

Dr. India Thusi is a Professor of Law at the Indiana University Bloomington Maurer School of Law and a Senior Scientist at the Kinsey Institute. Her research examines racial and sexual hierarchies as they relate to policing, race, sexuality, and gender. She was selected as a Fulbright U.S. Global Scholar for 2020-2023.

Her past work has been selected for the 2020 Stanford/Harvard/Yale Junior Faculty Forum; Honorable Mention for the Law & Society John Hope Franklin Award; and the 2021 Equality Law Scholars’ Forum.

Professor Thusi is an award-winning writer and scholar, and she was recognized as a Top 40 Rising Young Lawyer by the American Bar Association in 2019 and a Top 40 Under 40 Emory University Alum in 2020.

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