- - Monday, February 6, 2023

The Florida Department of Education recently rejected a new Advanced Placement course in African American studies. As Bryan Griffin, press secretary for Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, explained, the proposed course is a “vehicle for a political agenda” that leaves far too much room for “ideological material” to make its way into the curriculum.

Predictably, this move drew immediate criticism from the left. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called the move “incomprehensible.” She suggested that the decision was rooted in racism, and Vice President Kamala Harris referred to the decision to ban the course as “extremist.” Other critics have gone so far as to suggest that Florida is trying to remove the Black experience from its high school curriculum.

Upon a closer look, however, one will see that this decision was not racist but instead was focused on telling the truth about Black history. The proposed new AP curriculum would have inserted a political agenda in place of an honest look at the facts. The Florida Department of Education banned this course to prevent this from happening. In doing so, the department explained that “the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.” The department also noted that it would “be willing to reopen the discussion” if an alternative proposed curriculum included “lawful, historically accurate content.”

Several parts of the proposed curriculum demonstrate how the priorities of many on the left are misplaced. For example, a major component of the curriculum is “Black queer studies,” which emphasizes the importance of learning about gay issues in the Black community much more than learning about African American history. Other courses even encourage students to “reject the given realities of the government and the market” and embrace other ideas.

The proposed curriculum is also not shy about its political activism, and it calls for both the abolition of prisons and reparations. Furthermore, it emphasizes the basic critical race theory concept of “intersectionality,” which understands individual identity — and indeed all of history — in terms of overlapping systems of oppression related to race, gender, sexual orientation and income inequality. On the whole, these factors reveal that this course is not intended to be a true study of history but instead an activist, political agenda that would be forced onto Florida’s students.

All of these concepts are antithetical to the fundamental American ideal of “liberty and justice for all,” and they tarnish the legacy of the brave patriots who strived to uphold the value of equality throughout our history. When studying the African American experience, students should be learning about Crispus Attucks, who was the very first person to die for the cause of American independence. They should be inspired by learning about the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who referred to the Constitution as a “glorious liberty document” and called Independence Day “the very ringbolt in the chain of our yet undeveloped destiny.” And they should know more about the Tuskegee Airmen, whose bravery in the skies helped secure an Allied victory in World War II. Classrooms should embrace courses that are a jubilee to commemorate these incredible accomplishments, not courses that relegate them to the background.

The idea that Florida is trying to bury Black history by opposing this left-wing ideological agenda is absurd. In fact, Florida law already requires that public schools teach “the history of African Americans … the passage to America, the enslavement experience, abolition, and the contributions of African Americans to society.” Mr. DeSantis explained this position when he argued that “education, not indoctrination,” is Florida’s goal and that African American history will remain part of Florida’s core curriculum.

Conservatives aren’t trying to shy away from the truth by denouncing courses in African American studies that promote a woke ideology. Instead, they are emphasizing the importance of a realistic, serious study of our nation’s past. Conservatives oppose the idea of ideological agendas taking the place of genuine education and the idea of activism replacing real learning.

We can’t heal from the past by brushing it aside, but we also can’t weaponize our history to turn our nation’s citizens against one another. Instead, by learning the truth about our country, we can build a bridge to get past the divisions of skin color issues and level the playing field for the one-blood human race.

• Jack Brewer serves as chair, Center for Opportunity Now and vice chair, Center for 1776 for the America First Policy Institute. Alveda King serves as chair, Center for the American Dream for the America First Policy Institute.

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