Opinion: Hysteria over AP pilot history course

Rich Lowry

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis stands accused of a long parade of horribles to which has now been added a new count: allegedly opposing the teaching of African American history.

Florida rejected the College Board’s pilot Advanced Placement African American Studies course, and the decision has been treated in progressive quarters like the curricular equivalent of George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called the state’s decision “incomprehensible.” DeSantis wants to “block,” according to Jean-Pierre, “the study of Black Americans.” She noted, ominously, “These types of actions aren’t new, especially from what we’re seeing from Florida, sadly.”

Florida Sen. Shevrin Jones, a Democrat, said the rejection of the course amounts to a “whitewash” of American history. Jones maintains that “we’re back at square one, seeing that we once again have to defend ourselves to be legitimate in America.”

Never mind that there’s obviously a difference between objecting to the ideological content of a pilot course that hasn’t yet been adopted and erasing the history of African Americans as such.

This is the typical game of pretending that the only way to teach the history of African Americans is through the tendentious political lens favored by the left.

When red states push back against critical race theory, its proponents make it sound as if students will, as a consequence, never learn about the Transatlantic slave trade, the 13th Amendment, or Frederick Douglass.

This is preposterous. No reasonable person opposes teaching American history fully and truthfully. (In Florida, the controversial “Stop WOKE Act” itself stipulates that instructors should teach the history of African peoples, the Middle Passage, the experience of slavery, abolition, and the effects of segregation and other forms discrimination.)

The problem is when the curriculum is used as an ideological weapon to inculcate a distorted, one-sided worldview, and here, Florida has the College Board dead to rights.

The College Board hasn’t released the pilot curriculum publicly, but, as conservative writer Stanley Kurtz and a publication called The Florida Standard have documented, it really goes off the rails when it addresses contemporary issues. The curriculum presents the Black Lives Matter and reparations movements favorably and recommends the writings of a clutch of writers on the left, from Robin D.G. Kelley to Michelle Alexander, without rejoinder.

Bias aside, with the state of American historical and civic knowledge in near collapse, who thinks high school students need to be brushing up on “Black Queer Studies?” The curriculum explains that this topic “explores the concept of queer color critique, grounded in Black feminism and intersectionality, as a Black studies lens that shifts sexuality studies towards racial analysis.”

Surely, if anyone wants to marinate in this dreck, he or she can wait to do it in college, which specializes in wasting the time of students and spreading ridiculous cant and lies.

This is the more fundamental point. Such “studies” programs — African American, women’s, queer, etc. — are intellectually corrupt and inherently biased at the university level and should be kept far away from the realm of K-12 public education.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that an AP curriculum developed with the input of practitioners of African American studies at the university level would contain all the same perversities and warped ideas.

Florida should be commended for saying “no,” and other states that care about sound education should do the same.

African American history is American history. It should be taught — and has been — as an inherent part of the American story. Only when we are confident that all students know that story should we be willing to entertain further specialization, and never if it is the poisoned fruit of “identitarian” courses at universities that take it as a given that their students should be encouraged to thoughtlessly adopt progressive attitudes and beliefs.

This fight isn’t about blocking history or erasing the country’s sins but drawing a line between hifalutin political advocacy and thorough, truthful instruction in the American past.

— Rich Lowry is a columnist with King Features Syndicate.


Welcome to the new LJWorld.com. Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.