Some Florida residents are not happy with Gov. Ron DeSantis after he rejected a new Advanced Placement (AP) course that would teach African American studies. According to the New York Times, the Florida Dept. of Education said of the course, “As presented, the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.”
This brings into perspective the number of states passing laws on public education limiting what can or can not be discussed in the classroom. This is part of a larger trend of Republican lawmakers around the country proposing and signing bills restricting the discussion of race, gender, and other ‘divisive topics’ in schools. As of March 2022, at least 43 bills were under consideration across 21 states, according to Time.
More recently, a law in New Hampshire was passed in 2021 with the intent to regulate how prejudice is taught in K-12 schools. The law was snuck into the school budget and, as stated by N.H. PBS, “prohibits schools from teaching that one group of people is inherently racist, superior, or inferior to people of another group.”
What exactly does this mean? At first glance, the wording looks harmless, but diving into the deeper meaning of what it’s saying, I think this law is the starting point of more regressive laws to come. With this law, teachers may be afraid of losing their jobs by going into essential and necessary topics in history, whether these topics are affirmative action, slavery, or other important parts of American history. According to the New Hampshire Bulletin, “Supporters of the law have argued it is intended to prevent students and public employees from feeling singled out for their race and labeled as inherently oppressive against or inferior to others.”
If a student feels uncomfortable because their race might have been another race’s oppressor, that should not be the fault of the teacher if they are just trying to teach America’s history.
Another bill was proposed, called, “An act relative to Teacher’s Loyalty,” which will prevent teachers from showing America negatively in regard to racism. The idea of the bill is based on a Cold War piece of legislation that banned the teaching of communism in schools. If passed, the bill would restrict the idea that America was built on slavery in the context that everyone around the world had slaves. Even if all over the world people had slaves, it does not take away from the fact that a large part of our American history came from their horrific struggle and the fight for liberation during the mid-19th century.
The good news is that, most likely, this bill will not pass. The bad news is that more and more the state will try to rewrite America’s history and glaze over the worst parts. This should not stand. As students, we should be informed about what has happened and how we got to where we are now. The more the state tries to restrict the guidelines on what schools teach us, the more it brings into question, why? What are they trying to hide?
Molly Lu McKellar can be contacted