I’ll begin today’s post with a link to this report from The Week, but I’m reasonably certain that everyone reading this blog has already encountered reports about Ron. DeSantis’ most recent assault on the Constitution.
On the remote chance that you were vacationing in Bora Bora or blissfully hidden in an Amazon forest, I’ll explain: DeSantis refused to allow Florida schools to use a new Advanced Placement course in African-American studies, accusing it of being “woke.”
DeSantis has engaged in an unremitting war against “woke-ness”–otherwise described as any recognition that Black, Brown and LGBTQ people are citizens who are entitled to be treated as civic equals. My initial reaction to this latest eruption of racism in an effort to appeal to the increasingly racist GOP base was just to shake my head at this latest effort to protect Florida school kids from the evils of education.
Then came the reports prompting today’s headline–the utter capitulation of the College Board.
The alarming part of this story is that the College Board “completely bowed to his demands — and extremely quickly at that!” The nonprofit’s insistence that politics played no part in the decision is bunk. According to The New York Times, the writers and academics barred from the curriculum include Kimberlé W. Crenshaw, a Columbia professor whose work has been “foundational in critical race theory,” and author Ta-Nehisi Coates, “who has made a strong case for reparations.” More than 200 African American studies teachers said in a Medium post this gutting of the course amounts to “censorship and a frontal attack on academic freedom… Happy Black History Month.”
As Robert Kuttner put it in Kuttner on Tap in The American Prospect, DeSantis and the College Board were “enabling each others corruption.”
On Wednesday, after a threat from Gov. Ron DeSantis to ban the new Advanced Placement curriculum on African American studies in the state of Florida, the College Board released a watered-down version. The new curriculum is mainly historical. It deletes critical race theory and expunges or minimizes references to Black Lives Matter and the issues of reparations and Black incarceration. Some issues are removed from the AP curriculum entirely; others are left as optional topics for papers. The course still covers the slave trade and the civil rights movement but excises the work of several Black radical scholars.
Talk about following the money!
Like most Americans, I had previously been unaware that the AP courses offered to high school students capable of engaging with a more challenging curriculum are a branded product of the College Board.
As Kuttner explained,
The College Board is a classic case of a large nonprofit that behaves exactly like a profit-maximizing business. Its annual budget is about a billion dollars a year, and according to its most recent tax filings, Coleman, its CEO, was paid $2.849 million in total compensation in 2020, which included $1.6 million in bonus and incentive compensation.
It turns out that the College Board’s income comes almost entirely from two sources: the fees it collects from SAT exams, and the money it makes from AP classes–licensing fees for use of the curricula and charges for the AP tests that allow students to earn early college credits.
But the SATs are on the ropes. Thanks to a long-standing campaign against the overuse of standardized testing by FairTest and other critics, at least 1,835 colleges and universities, a majority of all higher-education institutions, now either don’t use the SAT or make it optional. Its total revenue dropped from $1.1 billion in 2019 to $779 million in 2020, the year of its most recent tax filing. So the College Board is now even more reliant on AP curricula and tests.
That reliance explains a lot. According to Kuttner, there are currently 38 AP courses, including human geography, psychology, art history, and Japanese culture and language. The AP African American studies curriculum was new, poised to be launched in the 2023-2024 school year.
I had also been unaware of a growing movement to replace the College Board’s AP classes with “home-grown” curricula; the article quoted one principal explaining that having his own advanced courses allows his school to be creative in curriculum, instruction, and assessment, and to respond to student interests.
Parents opposed to substituting local curricula worry about college acceptances in the absence of the familiar College Board classes. Kuttner notes that their worry “is fomented by that other famously corrupted institution, the U.S. News rankings. In ranking high schools, one major U.S. News weighting factor is how many kids take AP courses—”a perfect symbiosis between two unsavory education players.”
This “backstory” goes a long way to explain the College Board’s craven capitulation to the censors of the far right. It also strips away any belief that the Board’s mission is education.
22 thoughts on “An Ugly Omen”
What about the College Board presidents statement that their curry change occurred prior to DeSantis’ critical remarks? Does the chronology play no role in the story?
Speaking of tests: a reader has shared the following brief You Tube link about the degree to which the obsession with standardized testing has derailed actual education: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3uniSXGx4o
Everything in capitalism is about competition and profit – period!
Is it possible that DeSantis knows the courts will rule in his favor if he gets sued?
Yes, all the way to the Supreme Court, who dares spend the money taking him to court.
What we are seeing are fascism and authoritarianism. These come about in dying empires.
What’s sad is all the democrats who “denounced socialism” in D.C. Based on their vote, they endorsed the right-wings crusade of fascism and authoritarianism.
Is there no institution, no organization, no profession, no industry that has not been corrupted in this country of greed?
Theresa, maybe not, but in every institution, organization, profession and industry there are some people fighting back.
No. None. In Rebecca Costa’s still-timely book, “The Watchman’s Rattle” she commits a chapter to the “if it don’t make a profit, it don’t get done.” philosophy that runs just about everything.
The concept of money is an advanced abstraction to a mindset that is still snapping spear points in a cave. So, naturally, that concept will be abused by the greedy. Greed is not new. When humans invented agriculture – and thus, surplus, trade created the need for less cumbersome means of exchange that bags of grain. So, if a person or collective had the most grain, guess what happened. They achieved POWER over others. The more power, the more greed became embedded in the primitive mind and psyche of humans. And here we are.
DeSantis is the modern personification of the primitive power-mongers of 7,000 years ago. He is the priest controlling the grain-storage facilities. He, therefore, will dictate how that grain is dispensed. POWER. Thing is, DeSantis, as with almost all still-breaking Republicans like Rick Scott, lack the intellect to understand what power really is. They pass GO and head straight for their donors/sponsors/operators. THOSE greed merchants, ultimately, control what is and isn’t done. They are called corporations and banks. Is there any further doubt about why Citizens United v. FEC decisions were made by our “high” court?
DeSantis won re-election with 2/3 of the vote. Who are these lackeys?
Of course, DeSantaclaus and the College Board are outrageous.
I am ready to be beaten up here, but…IMHO…there should be no courses in Black history, Latino hIstory, Women’s history, etc.. There is world history, American history, etc. all of which should highlight the contributions and events of all people involved, accurately and completely. Education is a kind of “role modeling”. If you learn about humanity, you have a “humanity view” of life, not an “identify politics” one. Got my armor on…
My now deceased wife’s thesis leading to her doctorate in elementary education from the University of Illinois had to do with reading comprehension in the content area, i.e., a hypothesis that reading comprehension need not be confined to reading classes per se, but could be taught while also teaching arithmetic, grammar etc., thus killing two birds with one stone in terms of precious time spent in elementary instruction. I can only imagine how she would react to the story Sheila tells us today of how capitalism has captured curricula in coordination with budding fascists such as Herr DeFascist, one seeking profit and the other seeking power to rule in contravention of, inter alia, the First Amendment.
Sheila’s effort today also suggests an area I have long criticized, to wit: the so-called not for profit organizations who make no profit but pay their executives and others huge salaries along with other compensation from the meager resources of well-meaning contributors who are under the unrelieved impression that their gifts are going for relief of the poor, animal shelters and the like, a soft fraud none of which requires multi-million dollar CEOs.
Lester, if world history, American history, etc. had always been taught honestly by highlighting the contributions of ALL, there would never had been a reason to build courses in Black history, Latino history or Women’s history. But such honest history was never taught. What was taught was a kind of historical rationale for the wars and conquests of white men. Just saying that DeSantis’s efforts to keep that kind of history “outrageous” won’t do it. This country cannot move forward without a large dose of truth and honesty about our past.
Lester … You speak for me. My position though is world history, American history, and in my case growing up in Texas … the history of Texas … not through the lens of the infamous Texas Textbook Committee of the 50’s … but through the lens of diversity free of identity bias of a few given authority to decide what textbooks are approved.
“It deletes critical race theory and expunges or minimizes references to Black Lives Matter
and the issues of reparations and Black incarceration.” Is CRT not limited to study in law school?
If so, then the comment quoted is misguided.
In any case, BLM, reparations, and black incarceration, perhaps the latter especially, as it
negatively impacts the ability of blacks to vote, given the size of the black prison population,
now, and historically, are serious societal issues deserving of serious study.
Desalts first came to be governor because of the action of that former guy, gov’r Scott, in derailing
98,000 people named Johnson from the voting roles. DeSantis won by 36,000 or 37,000 votes his first
time out. You do the math, Johnson being a common last name for black people.
We have here a meeting of greed and the lust for power in this situation , gee whiz, what a
Bad policy, yes. Objectionable even offensive policy, yes. But is the Constitution really being violated? Just because a particular policy is bad or objectionable or offensive doesn’t mean that policy violates the Constitution. Government officials have enormous control over curriculum, control which necessitates teaching one thing over another thing. Again, I’m not sure making a bad policy choice here is a violation of the Constitution.
Last year I listened to an NPR story about many colleges and universities choosing to forego using SAT test scores as a requirement for admission. They dropped the SATs because college admissions significantly dropped during the Pandemic. In order to restore their incomes to pre-pandemic levels many colleges and universities decided to admit almost anyone that applied.
Then there was the national news exposure of wealthy parents buying their kids’ way into prestigious schools while those same schools refused admission to much more intelligent and worthy students who didn’t have wealthy parents able to pay extortion fees.
I completely agree with you that history needs to be taught as one subject that encompasses the entire story without leaving out any part of it. However, until that change happens, the ugly parts of our country’s history that were purposely eliminated or even lied about do need to be taught. It’s powerful white men that want to keep it swept under the rug.
All of our political dysfunction is aimed a a single North Star and that is weakening government by de-funding it and destroying knowledge of our rights under the Constitution which includes access to knowledge unfettered and uncensored by government.
How did we end up with our dear Governor winning by such a large margin?
First the Dems ran another re-tread, Charlie Crist.
Second DeMentis organized the vote police, who made a big show of arresting mostly black men who thought they could vote, even though they were ineligible because of the nature of their felonies. Note here that the state was obligated to check if their registrations were valid and inform them if they were not. The state did not do that.
Third, ad campaigns for Republicans were targeted to Cubans and Venezuelans and darkly depicted all Democrats as Socialists who would sacrifice their children on the altar of Karl Marx, Fidel Castro, and Hugo Chavez.
Do you need more? Limited ballot drop off boxes. Discouragement of absentee ballots especially in black areas. Limited polling places in southwest Florida, due to Ian. I know Ian wasn’t anyone’s fault, but I didn’t get notification that my polling place wouldn’t be available until two weeks before the election and I didn’t have to arrange time off of work to vote.
Limiting the vote is a science, one the Republicans take very seriously.
I would argue that the true power resides with colleges and universities, not DeSantis. Their response to the College Board’s failure to stand up for academic freedom should be to stop accepting all AP tests, replacing them with home-grown assessments for awarding credit or placing first-year students in more advanced courses. Let’s let the College Board die.
I absolutely read the watchmen’s rattle, as soon as you mentioned it, I ordered it! It’s not a huge long read, but it is very thought-provoking and informative, and everybody who is interested in this sort of thing should read it. Again Vernon, thank you!
I agree with you wholeheartedly, the only issue I can see with being taught American history, is, will it be taught fairly?
Will the complete history of the native Americans or the slave industry and trade, the brutality of white supremacy and the demonization of the Jews in this country be told correctly?
I know what you’re saying, and I don’t think you should be beat up about it, I think that is absolutely the fair way, but sometimes albeit all the time, the fair way is a bridge too far! Actually my brother, has there ever been a time when it wasn’t a bridge too far?
And in this day and age, agenda is the key word, what is the agenda for anything that’s done, is it above board? Are there ulterior motives? I think the wokeism argument is completely moronic, as well as people claiming to be woke! So is the whole anti-wokeism agenda, and, absolutely Todd is correct when he says follow the money! Money is the root of everything in this society and probably the entire human entity as a whole!
How many entities or organizations out there, actually refuse to put a price on human life? Human suffering? Political organizations? Human rights organizations? Religious organizations? Anti whatever organizations? It’s all about money with sex coming up the rear, lol!
In the long run, has humanity ever been fair? We have always had countries, including this one, that have constantly invoked God in its conduct and direction. But, whose side is God on? The Germans thought God was on their side, the Russians the same. The British the same Americans the same. The French the same. The Italians absolutely the same, Japan the same!
And, in the end, they all lie they all deceive. They all abuse, and none of them, not one, ever follows their own rules or constitutions or bylaws, they always try to work around. That mean green doesn’t have a conscience, and it corrupts very easily, even those with the best intentions. Has there ever been a time when it did not? Not in any history book or course I’ve ever read or taken.
Peggy – great summary of how focused the GOP is while the DEMs argue among themselves, choose “pols” for candidates and pontificate.
AP – Advanced Placement – steals dollars away from universities, and the only good side is that they supposedly save the students money. The problem is that tests are not all in line with college curricula, and despite the testing, the courses don’t have the same vigor that students would receive in the university setting.
In my school, we can only exchange AP credits for electives in some areas and in others we were told to take lower scores to give them credit for classes that are very rigorous, which puts them at a disadvantage for the next level class.
So, let AP go away and let students take true placement tests instead.
the corruption is the greed demanded by the shareholders,and ceos,and the bought and paid for law makers who make sure the present economy supports thier goals..
Two thoughts – one – ABerger is right! Why didn’t the universities say either (1) we will not give credit for this new DeSantis African-American History course, or (2) we will quit giving AP credit in general. I wasn’t offered AP courses when I was in school, although I think suburban schools were starting to do that.
two – Lester, I agree with you, but that is for the basic, for the 101 course. Look at a college history curriculum and you may see such courses as:
“Ancient Greece”, “Southeast Asian Civilization”, “Africa to 1850”, “Europe in Era of Total War, 1870-1945”, “The Jews of Medieval Spain”, “Christians of the Middle East: The Armenian Experience”, “Monks, Demons, Hermits: On the Edge of Early Christian Practice”
These are all “200 level courses”. Once you have covered the basics, you get to go into smaller areas in depth. A graduate student may work on a thesis about the status of yeomen in 15th century central England.
I could do the same with any field of study that you choose. The basics SHOULD be universal, but you have to allow students to get into the weeds to learn more. When I took graduate biochemistry (a million years ago) my advisor told me, rightly so, that progress wasn’t being make in DNA like it was in enzymes and protein chemistry. DNA could be covered in a single course with time left over. That was the early ’70s. Now it is difficult to keep up with all the advances in DNA biochemistry in a dozen courses.
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