haldar18_ Cheryl Senter for the Washington Post_desantis Cheryl Senter for the Washington Post

Ron DeSantis’s Intellectual Apartheid

Florida’s governor is trying to derail an African American Studies program, and the crusade he is leading is about more than just electoral politics and contemporary culture wars. It is about enforcing a new kind of educational segregation.

CAMBRIDGE – “This College Board – nobody elected them to anything.” So said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at a recent press conference where he threatened to block a new Advanced Placement (college-level) African American Studies class from being offered to the state’s high school students. With his eye on a run for the US presidency in 2024, DeSantis has been alarmingly successful in garnering attention with such race-baiting ploys, positioning himself as “Donald Trump without the baggage.”

As DeSantis stoked his feud with the College Board, several other states – including Virginia, North Dakota, Mississippi, and Arkansas – followed Florida’s lead in scrutinizing the new course for what they call “divisive” material. Meanwhile, the College Board has revised the proposed curriculum so that it no longer includes contemporary authors (Kimberlé Crenshaw, Angela Davis, Ta-Nehisi Coates) and issues (Black Lives Matter, the case for reparations for slavery) as “required reading.” Moreover, critical race theory (CRT) has been removed altogether, as has use of the key term “systemic.”

This battle over curricula is the latest episode in America’s ongoing culture wars, with DeSantis leading the conservative charge against “wokeness.” According to a tracking project hosted by the UCLA School of Law, more than two dozen states have already adopted measures prohibiting CRT. Similarly, PEN America finds that in the 2021-22 school year, 138 school districts across 32 states banned a total of 1,648 unique book titles; the largest share dealt with LGBTQ+ themes or race.

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