Will Midwest Governors Challenge Florida's Conservative Education Agenda?Breaking News
tags: African American history, teaching history, Ron DeSantis, J.B. Pritzker
Ron DeSantis, the Republican governor of Florida, is fond of describing his state as the place “where woke goes to die.”
If so, perhaps Democratic governors can do more to advertise their states as places where Florida-style school crackdowns go to die.
Some Democratic governors — not just in coastal states but also in Midwestern ones — are beginning to test this idea. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has seized on DeSantis’s latest culture-warring — Florida’s decision to ban an Advanced Placement course in African American studies — to articulate a contrasting vision for what topics should be permitted in classrooms.
This week, Pritzker singled out DeSantis as an “extremist,” after the College Board introduced a revised AP course in Black studies in response to DeSantis’s attacks. Florida nixed the old version for including topics such as “intersectionality” and “queer studies,” and the new version removes explicit mentions of those or downgrades them to optional topics.
In response, Pritzker faulted the board from the other direction, slamming its move as “a weak attempt to please extremists.” Pritzker hammered DeSantis for fearing classroom discussion of “intersectionality, feminism and queer Black life,” explicitly defining them as “components of Black History.”
This comes after Pritzker told the College Board that Illinois might not use its new AP course in African American studies if it is modified to “appease extremists” and “fit Florida’s racist and homophobic laws.”
What happened with the AP class is complex. The College Board denies that the new version is a response to DeSantis’s criticism, insisting these changes were underway earlier. And the new version does require teaching some topics that would advance students’ understanding of structural racism — a concept targeted by the right — such as redlining and housing discrimination.
Still, the new version removes scholars that Florida criticized, such as civil rights scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, a DeSantis bogeywoman. As Crenshaw noted, at a minimum this creates the “appearance of bowing to political pressure in the context of new knowledge and ideas.”
In response, Democrats could explicitly declare that topics discouraged or banned in Florida classrooms will not be discouraged or banned in their states’ classrooms. They could model a liberal cultural agenda as an alternative to the reactionary culture-warring now underway in Florida and other red states.
In coming months, Pritzker will grow more vocal on this front, a source familiar with his thinking tells me.
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