More states institute instruction constraints
By Stacy M. Brown | NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
The Arkansas Education Department has opted to strip course credit from the Advanced Placement (AP) African American Studies course, just a few months after Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders inked legislative measures curbing the scope of public school educators’ pedagogical offerings.
The AP African American Studies course, a beacon of educational diversity and cultural enlightenment, will not be eligible for early college credit during the upcoming school year.
“The department encourages the teaching of all American history and supports rigorous courses not based on opinions or indoctrination,” Kimberly Mundell, the Education Department’s communications director, said in a statement. “Arkansas law contains provisions regarding prohibited topics,” Mundell told local station KHBS, referring to state education restrictions. “Without clarity, we cannot approve a pilot that may unintentionally put a teacher at risk of violating Arkansas law.”
As several states undertake concerted efforts to circumscribe the boundaries of what educators can impart concerning race, gender, and sexuality, Arkansas has emerged as a new focal point in this ongoing dialogue. NBC News reported that Sanders had earlier championed limits on education in the state. The outlet noted that she signed the LEARNS Act into law in March, restricting classroom lessons about gender identity and sexual orientation.
In January, the Republican governor signed an executive order banning “indoctrination and critical race theory” in schools. The assault on critical race theory, which isn’t taught in grade schools, has been among the most controversial GOP initiatives across the country.
In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis spearheaded initiatives to exert an overarching influence over academic viewpoints and curricula. His HB 999 has caused consternation throughout the academic community, epitomizing an audacious stride toward dictating the contours of education. HB 999 says that all colleges and universities must not spend money on education programs or other things that support diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“This bill is a road map for wrecking one of our great state systems of higher education,” University of Michigan Law Professor Julian Davis Mortenson tweeted.
The bill eliminates Women’s and Gender Studies as a major or minor at state colleges and universities. It dictates that there can’t be a major or minor “based on the Critical Race Theory belief system.”
According to the bill’s text, the university president or board would do all faculty hiring. It asserts that they “may not delegate” any aspect of any hiring decision or hiring authority to any group or faculty, however constituted. Further, the bill asserts that they are “not required to consider the recommendations or opinions of faculty.”
Jeremy C. Young, Pen America’s senior manager of Free Expression and Education, called the bill “terrifying.” Pen America is a non-profit group that protects and promotes free speech worldwide by promoting literature and human rights.
“Florida HB 999 would enact the most Draconian and censorious restrictions on higher education in the history of this country,” Young stated. “The bill would make tenure and faculty hiring committees meaningless, ban diversity statements, and centralize control of core curricula and mission statements in the hands of political appointees,” Young said. “Unexpectedly, it would also ban gender studies majors.”