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National Education Association adds book about kneeling during the national anthem to its suggested reading list

The National Education Association, the largest teachers’ union in the country, recommended a book about two cheerleaders who protest by taking a knee during the national anthem. The reading suggestion also features reflective writing questions, a discussion guide, and additional activist resources.

NEA’s “Read Across America” initiative includes “12 months of recommended books, authors, and teaching resources that promote diversity and inclusion.”

“Why We Fly,” a book by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal, appeared on the NEA’s August 2022 reading list for young adults. The story is about two girls on the cheer team who protest the national anthem by taking a knee. The authors of the book took inspiration from Colin Kaepernick.

A passage from the book reads, “As the first strains of the anthem begin, we all look to Leni, who signals with one pom-pom and then drops until one knee touches the grass. We fall like a line of dominoes, one by one, just as we’d planned.”

A couple of scenes from the book feature one of the two main characters smoking marijuana from a vape pen. When caught smoking, the student comments, “Well-behaved women rarely make history.”

Supplemental reading guides are included with the book listing. The guides provide teachers with suggestions on how to quiz students. Discussion questions include “What examples of discrimination, racism, or racial privilege can you identify from the book? From your own experiences?”

Another discussion question reads, “What did Leni, Nelly, and Three learn about social justice activism? What did you learn about how to step up and when to step aside? How do you determine when it is a moment for you to speak or to listen?”

The book’s listing also included an additional discussion guide sheet that asks, “After the cheer team first takes a knee, the student-led organizations in the school discuss whether they should collectively do so at the next game. What are the arguments for and against taking this action the characters espouse?”

The related resources section link to Facing History, a non-profit organization with the mission of using “lessons of history to challenge teachers and their students to stand up to bigotry and hate.” The website encourages teachers to have students reflect on several questions, including “why do you think the people in each image are kneeling?” and “How has the response to the Take A Knee protest changed over time?”