In Florida, the education system has endured many recent changes. Last year, Governor Ron DeSantis passed the Stop W.O.K.E Act, commonly known as the Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act. This act is regarded as “the nation’s strongest legislation against critical race theory,” which studies the systemic nature of racism in many Western societies and racism’s presence in many of their social and political institutions. However, the attempts to “edit” American history to the liking of many Florida representatives are not only inhibiting the proper education of many Florida students, but are also setting a precedent for many states that would, unfortunately, like to follow in Florida’s footsteps. The Stop W.O.K.E Act prohibits instruction to kids on “race relations or diversity that imply a person’s status as either privileged or oppressed is necessarily determined by his or her race, color, national origin, or sex.” The bill also prohibits workplaces and schools from subjecting people to instruction that “promotes, advances, inculcates, or compels such individuals to believe specified concepts constitute discrimination based on race, color, sex, or national origin.” However, the Stop W.O.K.E Act is not the only way that Florida has attempted to censor history.
Very recently, after the College Board released the framework for its new Advanced Placement African American Studies course, criticism from Governor DeSantis arguably prompted the College Board to revise its curriculum. In its revisions, they have removed many critical Black writers and academics, including Michelle Alexander, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and bell hooks. The topics extracted from the curriculum include the Black feminist movement, incarceration, Black Lives Matter, Black queer studies, intersectionality, and Critical Race Theory.
However, Trevor Packer, the head of the Advanced Placement program, argues that Florida politics did not prompt these changes. Instead, they resulted from concern from teachers that “the pilot course was weighted too heavily toward contemporary theorists” and not focused enough on foundational history. Still, it is clear that the politics of Florida played a crucial role in reforming the African American Studies program regardless. As a result, some of the new topics incorporated into the African American Studies curriculum were Black conservatism. Alongside this was Black achievement, which was a relatively positive addition to the course. Often, the program was criticized for being far too focused on the victimization, struggle, and tragedy that befell the Black community for centuries. Thus, an addition relating to Black achievements, such as studies of the Civil Rights Movement, music, Black courage, and Black medical contributions, is beneficial to broadening the perspectives of the program. Though the changes to the program have upset many people, we can definitely still regard the curriculum as far more extensive and detailed than the traditional K-12 education on African American history. However, is Florida done with their efforts to change American history?
DeSantis passed the Stop W.O.K.E Act with hopes of prohibiting instruction that would compel students to feel guilt for what other members of their race did in the past. Moreover, others support the bill because of the belief that studies, such as Critical Race Theory, are “anti-American, divisive, harmful for children.” However, this introduces the question of the role of slavery, race, and many other sensitive topics in American classrooms. DeSantis believes “children shouldn’t have agendas imposed on them” and referred to that process as “indoctrination.” Still, schools are the first place where we begin to shape Americans’ minds by introducing them to the history of our past. They should be educated fully and encouraged to understand vital parts of Black history, including the Civil War, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow. Unfortunately, history is being altered, oversimplified, and ultimately made to support the institution of white supremacy. Even Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “No society can fully repress an ugly past when the ravages persist to the present.” So, as we still face issues such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and many others today, we have a right as students involved in the education system to study its origins and look at the injustices within our history. Furthermore, we have the right as citizens and educators to discuss them openly without criticism and fear of violating the law. Right now, Florida’s children are being deprived of a complete education, a fact that cannon stand. We should be trusting young people to evaluate and contextualize some of the most difficult eras in human history on their own, without the hands of the government to guide them along.