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June 2, 2021

How to Discuss the Equal Rights Amendment with Students

Educators discuss how they might teach the current debate as to whether the deadline for ratification should be extended.


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Talking About the ERA

PBS NewsHour EXTRA held a conversation on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) as part of its Educator Voice series in March with guests Sen. Pat Spearman of Nevada, a 30-year U.S. veteran (ret.) and pastor who holds a doctorate in business management, and Kate Kelly, a human rights lawyer, feminist and advocate for the ERA, and Sari Beth Rosenberg, NYC high school history teacher and host.

Teachers and school staff from across the U.S. attended the session in March. As with all NewsHour EXTRA Zoom sessions, the educator audience played an active role throughout the conversation, in this case sharing memories of Congress’ passage of the ERA in 1972 to how educators might teach the current debate as to whether the deadline for ratification should be extended.

After Congress passed the ERA, the amendment still needed to be ratified by three-fourths of the states (38 states). While Virginia’s ratification of the ERA in 2020 put it over the threshold to become an amendment, a legal debate has ensued about the consequences of Virginia’s ratification based on expired deadlines and five states’ revocations. Spearman and Kelly maintain these are obstacles that can be overcome.

Take a look at the highlight clips below and the full Zoom, if time allows. It’s chock-full of history and policy plus many rich anecdotes from those who remember the ERA’s passage and those looking to learn more.

Sen. Pat Spearman

“As a woman I’ve experienced discrimination. Discrimination in life. Discrimination in the military. Discrimination, even in church,” says Sen. Spearman of Nevada in an interview with the Las Vegas Review Journal in 2020, “Equality,” she says, “might as well be my middle name.”

Learn about Sen. Pat Spearman’s fight to pass the ERA in her state of Nevada. You may want to read Champion for Equality: For Pat Spearman, this is the fight of her life to learn more.

Kate Kelly

“What the Equal Rights Amendment will do is put gender into the Constitution,” explains Kelly during the Zoom. “It will essentially make the right to be free from discrimination a constitutional right on the basis of sex.”

Sari Beth Rosenberg

“The fight for equity and equality never stops,” says host Sari Beth Rosenberg.

Watch the Full Zoom Here

Republished with permission from PBS NewsHour Extra.

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