Last month, Florida governor Ron DeSantis turned heads and sparked outrage in the mainstream media by announcing that his state would reject the College Board’s AP African-American Studies course as it was written. He objected not only to the course’s explicit inclusion of critical race theory but also to the inclusion of queer theory and to, in his words, “abolishing prisons being taught to high school kids as if that’s somehow a fact? No, no, that’s not appropriate.”
You could have read a dozen articles and opinion editorials about DeSantis’s move, however, and never encountered the substance of his objections. For example, the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin accused DeSantis of going “full-blown white supremacist,” insisting “this is fact-based history, and Florida did not explain how the AP course supposedly contravened state law.”
But the Florida Department of Education did explain it. The issue it cited was, as I wrote in Newsweek, that the last quarter of the curriculum left fact-based history behind and instead presented the “one-sided vision of far-left academics as fundamentally integral to the African-American experience and national contribution.” If a state were to teach this course to children, it would effectively be endorsing the proposition that far-left academic ideologues were the ultimate arbiters of “blackness.”
Fortunately, the College Board radically revised the content. The final framework for the course has excised the ideology-laden units and replaced them with the type of lessons that Americans of all races want students to be taught. Here’s what’s gone: “The Black Feminist Movement and Womanism,” “Intersectionality and Activism,” “Black Feminist Literary Thought,” “Black Queer Studies,” “‘Post-Racial’ Racism and Colorblindness,” “Incarceration and Abolition,” “Movement for Black Lives,” “The Reparations Movement,” and “Black Vernacular, Pop Culture, and Cultural Appropriation.” And here’s what’s new: “The Growth of the Black Middle Class,” “Black Political Gains,” “Demographic and Religious Diversity in the Black Community,” and “Black Achievement in Science, Medicine and Technology.”
The recommended readings no longer contain a parade of far-left academics. No more Angela Davis, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Michelle Alexander, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Robin D. G. Kelley, Patricia Hill Collins, or Kimberlé Crenshaw.
The perspective of comparable units has also changed dramatically. In the earlier framework, the unit on religion focused exclusively on black liberation theology. The final framework emphasizes religious diversity. In the earlier framework, the section on science and medicine focused on “inequities.” The final framework emphasizes “achievement,” recommending the study of a “wide range of African American scientists and inventors.” The “Black Political Gains” unit features not only Barack Obama and Kamala Harris but also Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, specifically recommending an excerpt of Rice’s 2012 speech at the Republican National Convention.
It is, in short, exactly the sort of unsparing yet aspirational, mainstream, apolitical African-American history course that DeSantis’s critics accused him of opposing. And now that the College Board has tacked back to the middle, DeSantis’s far-left critics have dropped their masks. The Human Rights Campaign lamented the exclusion of the “names of major black writers and scholars associated with critical race theory.” The National Black Justice Coalition complained that the College Board had “removed topics of critical race theory, Black Lives Matter, Black Feminism, and the Black LGBTQ+/Same Gender Loving (LGBTQ+/SGL) experience.”
From “they’re not teaching critical race theory” to “how dare they not teach critical race theory!” Law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, who coined the term “critical race theory,” told the New York Times she was stunned that her law review article defining the concept of “intersectionality” would not be taught to high school students.
For its part, the College Board has denied that it revised the curriculum in response to political pressure from DeSantis. College Board CEO David Coleman told the Times that the revisions were made in response to feedback from students and teachers. If true, then all the better. That would mean that public school teachers and students rejected critical race theory and far-left ideology masquerading as history.
But it’s hard to avoid the impression that the College Board reacted to Florida’s principled stand. And if so, then parents across America should thank DeSantis for being, as the saying goes, on the right side of history.
Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images