Badass Teachers Unite!

Reflections on Education, History, and Youth Activism

This collection of important and much needed essays on education and youth activism draws from Naison's research on Bronx History and his experiences defending teachers and students from school reform policies which undermine their power and creativity. Naison's focus is identifying teaching and organizing strategies that have worked effectively in New York, and could be implemented in impoverished communities elsewhere.

About the author

MARK NAISON is professor of African American studies and history at Fordham University. He is author of many books and articles including Communists in Harlem During the Depression and White Boy: A Memoir. The founder of the Bronx African American History project, Naison has emerged in the last five years as a passionate defender of America's public school teachers and students, founding groups like Dump Duncan, the Teachers Talk Back Project, and most recently, the Badass Teachers Association.


"There was an era when educators were feared by the corporate establishment. As Time magazine wrote in 1963, “The U.S. teacher used to be afraid to smoke, chew, cuss or ask for a raise. Now he denounces crowded classrooms, upbraids lawmakers, and goes on strike almost as readily as a dockworker.” Mark Naison’s Badass Teachers Unite brings back the attitude we need to back down the corporate reform bullies and retake our schools."
—Jesse Hagopian history teacher, Garfield High School, Seattle, and associate editor, Rethinking Schools

"In this powerful collection of essays, education activist and historian Mark Naison offers teachers, parents, students, and anyone else concerned with the health of public schools in this country some invaluable tools in the fight against corporate education reform. Bad Ass Teachers Unite is a clarion call for all of us to reclaim public education in the name of social justice."
—Wayne Au, Associate Professor, University of Washington-Bothell, Editor, Rethinking Schools, co-editor, Pencils Down: Rethinking High-Stakes Testing and Accountability in Public Schools.

“Mark Naison has woven a series of provocative essays into a powerful book. No traditional scholarly treatise, Badass Teachers Unite! is an Education Manifesto for the people’s school reform movement. With clarity, verve, and passion, Naison outlines the challenges we face transforming public schools and he forges a guide to our actions. This book is must reading for anyone concerned about the plight of public schools in the USA today.”
—Henry Louis Taylor, Jr., Director, UB Center for Urban Studies, University at Buffalo

"Anyone who wants to understand this movement, to be involved in it, to counter it, or just to observe it intelligently, would do well to read Mark Naison’s book."
—Aaron Barlow, Academe Blog

Praise for White Boy:

"White Boy is a happy exception to the absence of autobiographical writings of historians of social movements. It is also an inspired intervention into the history of Black Studies. Its ability to sustain optimism regarding interracialism while acknowledging the costs of long histories and deep structures of division makes the book a great asset." 

—David Roediger, Babcock Professor of History at the University of Illinois, and author of Colored White: Transcending The Racial Past

"White Boy is one of the most fascinating memoirs I've read in a while. It does much more than provide us with an interesting coming-of-age tale of a smart Jewish kid who discovered and fell in love with black life and culture—a love, like all loves, full of discord and mad misunderstandings. Instead, Naison tries to be self-reflexive along the way, providing social historical contexts while attempting to reconstruct his own sense of naivete he experienced at the moment of certain cultural encounters. Chock full of stories, White Boy will be an important and much debated book."

—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Yo' Mama's DisFunktional!: Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America

"...forthright and thoughtful memoir.... An adroit writer with a winning voice, Naison avoids romanticizing his activist days; he is at times also critical of New Left tactics (particularly those that reinforced racial polarization among activists), and he interrogates his own interest in and identification with black culture."


"Naison [writes] with unsparing honesty and personal revelation.... Naison's memoir grows in importance. It has raised some crucial issues, many of which go to the heart of the continuing search for racial justice and interracial unity. It should be read widely and debated vigorously."

—Science and Society

"In this forthright and thoughtful memoir, Naison, who became, in the early 1970s, one of the first professors (and the only white man) at Fordham's new Institute of Afro-American Studies, recalls a lifetime of fascination with black history and culture and of antidiscrimination activism. ...An adroit writer with a winning voice, Naison avoids romanticizing his activist days; ...he interrogates his own interest in and identification with black culture."

—Publishers Weekly

"...engrossing.... more than just a political memoir.... White Boy is an extraordinary, valuable and often funny memoir in which Naison relates his personal odyssey against the social ferment of the 1960s and early 1970s." 
—The Nation
"In a world where academic language waters down essential issues of truth and commercially driven art warps beauty, Naison's attempt to keep it real should be applauded."

—Socialism and Democracy Online