They Came for the Schools: One Town's Fight Over Race and Identity, and the New War for America's Classrooms (Hardcover)
The urgent, revelatory story of how a school board win for the conservative right in one Texas suburb inspired a Christian nationalist campaign now threatening to undermine public education in America—from an NBC investigative reporter and co-creator of the Peabody Award–winning and Pulitzer Prize finalist Southlake podcast.
Award-winning journalist Mike Hixenbaugh delivers the immersive and eye-opening story of Southlake, Texas, a district that seemed to offer everything parents would want for their children—small classes, dedicated teachers, financial resources, a track record of academic success, and school spirit in abundance. All this, until a series of racist incidents became public, a plan to promote inclusiveness was proposed in response—and a coordinated, well-funded conservative backlash erupted, lighting the fire of a national movement on the verge of changing the face of public schools across the country.
They Came for the Schools pulls back the curtain on the powerful forces driving this crusade to ban books, rewrite curricula, limit rights for minority and LGBTQ students—and, most importantly, to win what Hixenbaugh’s deeply informed reporting convinces is the holy grail among those seeking to impose biblical values on American society: school privatization, one school board and one legal battle at a time.
They Came for the Schools delivers an essential take on Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, as they demean public schools and teachers and boost the Christian right’s vision. Hixenbaugh brings to light fascinating connections between this political and cultural moment and past fundamentalist campaigns to censor classroom lessons. Finally, They Came for the Schools traces the rise of a new resistance movement led by a diverse coalition of student activists, fed-up educators, and parents who are beginning to win select battles of their own: a blueprint, they hope, for gaining inclusive and civil schools for all.
Mike Hixenbaugh, senior investigative reporter for NBC News, has been named a Pulitzer Prize finalist and won a Peabody Award for his reporting on the battle over race, gender, and sexuality in American classrooms. They Came for the Schools, his first book, is the winner of the prestigious Lukas Work-in-Progress Award. Hixenbaugh’s work at newspapers in Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, and Texas has uncovered deadly failures in the U.S. military, abuses in the child welfare system, and safety lapses at major hospitals. He lives in Maryland with his wife and four children.
“From the front lines of America’s culture wars, Mike Hixenbaugh delivers a clear-eyed, intensely reported lesson about the underhanded efforts to privatize what was once our finest and most democratic institution—our schools. As propulsive as it is important and teeming with narrative surprise, They Came for the Schools harkens to the great J. Anthony Lukas’s Common Ground.” — Beth Macy, author of Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America
“This book is not only a gripping, up-close story of one Texas town’s descent into political madness, it’s also the larger tale of how powerful moneyed interests are stoking our divisions and turning classrooms into battlegrounds.” — Paul Tough, author, The Inequality Machine: How Colleges Divide Us
"One of the most important battles raging across our country is what our children are taught about our history. With penetrating reporting, research, and crisp writing, Mike Hixenbaugh delivers a must-read dispatch from the front lines of a war over not just the complexities of our past, but the future of our multiracial democracy." — Wesley Lowery, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of American Whitelash: A Changing Nation and the Cost of Progres
"A long overdue investigation of powerful forces battling behind the scenes to control what our children are taught about the American story. Hixenbaugh reveals a coordinated and growing attack on educators who want their classrooms to be places where all children can thrive, think freely, and learn a full accounting of who we are as a nation." — Soledad O’Brien, host, Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien
“In They Came for the Schools, Mike Hixenbaugh has produced an absorbing if deeply unsettling account of how our public schools have become the nation's foremost cultural war zones. Hixenbaugh's even-handed tale of a seemingly idyllic Texas suburban high school's descent into hysteria is a parable of polarization on steroids, made all the more poignant for the children who are caught in the political crossfire.” — Robert Draper, author, Weapons of Mass Delusion: When the Republican Party Lost Its Mind