As Black History Month begins today in the US, the country’s latest culture war battle is about … Black history.
On Wednesday, the College Board, a national nonprofit that sets educational standards for colleges, is set to release the framework for a new Advanced Placement course in African American history.
The course has been in the culture war crosshairs since Ron DeSantis, the popular conservative governor of Florida, last week nixed a pilot version of the curriculum from his state’s public high schools, saying it violates his 2022 “Stop WOKE ACT,” which aims to limit the teaching of progressive ideas such as “Critical Race Theory.”
If you’re unfamiliar with the US education system, AP programs are college-level courses for high school students.
If you’re unsure what Critical Race Theory is, it’s an academic approach that argues that racial hierarchies and discriminatory norms have shaped our social, legal, and economic systems, and that racism remains woven into those systems even in the absence of explicitly racist laws.
At issue in Florida are several sections of the AP course that draw on critical theory approaches to address criminal justice, the experiences of non-heterosexual Black people, and reparations for slavery.
DeSantis’ critics say he is censoring certain subjects for political reasons and that he is unfairly singling out African American studies for special scrutiny. A court has already partially blocked application of the Stop WOKE Act over free speech concerns, and Florida students backed by a prominent civil rights attorney have already threatened to sue DeSantis over the AP decision. On Tuesday, DeSantis doubled down, announcing that he now wants to prohibit state universities from spending money on “diversity, equity, and inclusion” initiatives, which aim to broaden the racial and ethnic backgrounds of the student body and staff.
DeSantis, one of America’s foremost conservative culture warriors, says he’s preventing he “indoctrination” of students with ideas that he and his supporters say foment social conflict rather than national unity. Florida’s existing African American history requirements, he points out, already include a focus on the legacies of slavery and racism.
The intrigue: What will the final version of the course look like? The College Board, which took several years to develop the course, has reportedly said it won’t make changes based specifically on Florida’s reaction. If that’s true, the culture war battle lines will be as crisply drawn as ever.
One thing is certain: The move to ban the course is good politics for DeSantis if he wants to inherit — or swipe — the mantle of GOP leadership from Donald Trump ahead of the 2024 presidential election. A recent poll shows nearly 80% of Republicans oppose teaching “Critical Race Theory” and that 43% oppose teaching about racism at all.
What do you think? Is DeSantis protecting kids from indoctrination, or is he censoring legitimate academic viewpoints? Let us know here (**hides under desk**) – and if you include your name and location, we might publish your response.