October 3, 2023

Foolishness Right and Left

By Stephen Tuttle | Jan. 28, 2023

Recent actions in Florida, Arkansas, and California are proving the extreme right and left can be equally nonsensical.

The College Board, a nonprofit organization created in 1900 to expand student access to higher education, approves and distributes Advanced Placement (AP) courses for high school students. Since the 2007-2008 school year, they have required schools to submit proposed curricula before it can officially be referred to as “Advanced Placement,” establishing specific criteria to qualify for the AP imprimatur. These are classes created to give students who qualify and excel a distinct advantage heading to their next level of education.

Florida was given an AP African American Studies program, which they promptly rejected. Their Department of Education, taking their cue from Gov. Ron DeSantis, said the program “lacks educational value.” DeSantis gave a more straightforward answer when questioned about the decision. To paraphrase, Florida has its own Black history instruction so they don’t need an entire course on it. Then he got to the real crux of the issue—the AP course proposed includes lessons on “queer theory,” DeSantis said.

The Florida governor’s distrust, dislike, and fear of the LGBTQ+ community has reached downright obsessive levels and has now spilled over into Black history as well. He seems to think, and has convinced a compliant legislature, that nearly any reference to relationships not between one man and one woman is an attempt to “indoctrinate” and “groom” Florida children to a “gay lifestyle.”

Additionally, a recent Florida law prohibits teachers from including any books in their classrooms that haven’t been curated by a librarian who must be on the lookout for more indoctrination and grooming. I would call such people censors, and it’s unclear what standards they will use while undertaking their censorship efforts. Almost incomprehensibly, it can be a felony if a teacher brings an unapproved book into his or her classroom. Dr. Seuss could now be a crime.

Florida is already known for its so-called “don’t say gay” law passed last year. That’s not exactly what the law is, but it is certainly another piece of a puzzle unfriendly to the LGBTQ+ community.

So, American history being taught to students in Florida is starting to come into sharper focus—no courses including Florida’s long and mostly unpleasant relationship with Black history and nothing that even tangentially mentions gay anything lest their children be groomed and indoctrinated.

Farther west, the newly elected governor of Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Donald Trump’s former press secretary, started her tenure with eight executive orders on her first day in office. Two of them were sort of mysterious.

First, she banned the teaching of critical race theory (CRT) in K-12 public schools. This is a popular target of conservative Republicans. Initially created 40+ years ago as something to be discussed in a college level course, CRT proposes that race is a social construct and racism is embedded in our country’s legal systems and policies—to the point that systems intentionally benefit a white patriarchy at the specific expense of minorities, particularly Black people.

The theory contains both truth and hyperbole but was never intended to be taught or even discussed at the K-12 level. In fact, there is not a single public school in Arkansas that includes CRT as a course or even part of a course in their curricula. Sanders is banning something that does not exist…you know, just in case.

Not finished, she also banned the use of the word “Latinx” in any communications generated by the state. “Latinx” was supposed to be a gender neutral replacement for the gender specific words Latino or Latina. It hasn’t exactly caught on.

According to Pew Research, only 24 percent of that community, whether they call themselves Latino, Latina, or Hispanic, have ever even heard of the word Latinx, and only 3 percent said they’ve ever used it. But some Arkansans said the term is used when referring to non-binary folks, so we can’t have that. More grooming and indoctrination and another ban on something that barely exists.

Not to be outdone, the University of Southern California (USC) School of Social Work has banned the use of the word “field” in their department because it might be offensive to Black Americans whose enslaved ancestors were forced to work in fields, not to mention immigrant migrant workers “forced” to work in fields. I am not making this up.

So, “field” will be replaced by the word “practicum,” which Oxford Languages defines as a “practical, rather than theoretical, course of study.” USC students in school of social work will no longer do field work, they will do a practicum.

This foolishness, equally offensive if coming from either political extreme, will only stop when the public insists…assuming we can still use the word “public.”


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