As Americans begin Black History Month, the Governor of Florida and state officials are threatening to ban a new AP African American Studies Course. Officials say that the course is in violation of the new Stop Woke Act, but critics accuse the governor and Republican legislators of waging a culture war that uses black students as pawns and attempts to whitewash or erase Black history.
The new AP African American Studies course has been piloted in over 60 high schools across the country and is set to be offered nationwide. The course was rejected by officials in Florida because it included chapters on Black queer theory, reparations, and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Governor Ron DeSantis said he wasn’t opposed to teaching Black history, and said Florida wanted to teach “education in a classical sense” based on “enduring topics” rather than “imposing some rote talking points” on “political skirmishes of the day.” However, critics point out what they believes are flaws in this rationale.
Becky Pringle, head of the Florida teachers’ union tweeted, “When we censor classes and whitewash lesson plans, we harm our students and do them a deep disservice. I support the educators at Florida’s state capitol today to demand complete and honest education for all Florida students.”
Civil Rights attorney, Ben Crump, has announced a lawsuit against Florida’s Board of Education and students across the country are concerned about the attempts to censor this college-level curriculum. Over 650 African American Studies faculty, administrators, and allies in higher education at dozens of colleges and universities published an open letter, expressing their outrage at Florida’s rejection of the course.
Culture War Curriculum Censorship Moving to Ohio?
At the center of this controversy is the culture war over educational content. In fact, since January 2021, researcher Jeffrey Sachs says 35 states have introduced 137 bills limiting what schools can teach with regard to race, American history, politics, sexual orientation and gender identity.
Ohio is one of these states. In recent legislative sessions, conservative Republicans have introduced bills that focus on limiting discussions and content connected to race and LGBTQ issues. Many of these bills across the country include similar language and criteria because they are crafted by the conservative group, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
Educators and civil rights advocates in Ohio are concerned that bills censoring academic freedom and curriculum content could lead to a number of problematic situations. In addition to concerns about incomplete, inaccurate, and biased depictions of history, teachers are also feeling devalued and under attack.
White Supremacist Curriculum Revealed in Homeschool Network
While lawmakers are looking to limit discussion of difficult, but factual information in Ohio’s public school curriculum, an Ohio homeschool network with close to 3,000 subscribers made national headlines for promoting Nazi ideology.
Ohio’s education department is investigating reports of white supremacist content shared as educational resources for homeschooled children. One example of this content are Hitler quotes as handwriting copy work.
An investigation revealed racist, anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi and homophobic posts that spanned several years such as, ““We have fought hard for our right to homeschool the children. Without homeschooling the children, our children are left defenseless to the schools and the Gay Afro Zionist scum that run them.”
While an investigation into “compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements,” is underway, there is not much the state can do to change the curriculum or stop the sharing of these materials. Under Ohio law, the state’s Department of Education does not review or approve homeschool curriculum.
This is in stark contrast to the legislative focus on public school curriculum and what educators say could have detrimental consequences on the classroom environment, especially for people of color and other minority groups. Advocates are calling for a revision of the way Ohio reviews homeschool curriculum.