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Pritzker leans into College Board fight with DeSantis: “Black history is American History”

Thursday, Jan 26, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Tina Sfondeles

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is going to battle with the national College Board over what he calls “political grandstanding” by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The Chicago Democrat is warning the nonprofit that oversees the Advanced Placement program that Illinois will reject a revised African American Studies course if it doesn’t include “a factual accounting of history, including the role played by black queer Americans.”

Pritzker sent a sharply worded letter to the board over its decision to revise the Advanced Placement course in African American Studies after the Florida governor — and likely GOP presidential candidate — blocked Florida high schools from offering the course because it included segments on “queer theory” and “abolishing prisons,” among other topics.

It’s unclear how the course will be changed or if the revisions stem from Florida’s rejection, but the College Board said the new framework would be released on Feb. 1.

Pritzker objected to any change “in order to fit Florida’s racist and homophobic laws.”

* The course is a College Board pilot project with 60 high schools nationwide. As with all pilot projects, it’s under review before the board rolls it out nationally and won’t be required. Yet, the Florida Department of Education tried to take credit for any changes and all heck has broken loose

We are glad the College Board has recognized that the originally submitted course curriculum is problematic, and we are encouraged to see the College Board express a willingness to amend. AP courses are standardized nationwide, and as a result of Florida’s strong stance against identity politics and indoctrination, students across the country will consequentially have access to an historically accurate, unbiased course.

As Governor DeSantis said, African American History is American History, and we will not allow any organization to use an academic course as a gateway for indoctrination and a political agenda. We look forward to reviewing the College Board’s changes and expect the removal of content on Critical Race Theory, Black Queer Studies, Intersectionality and other topics that violate our laws.

But

But some people think the governor is just trying to shift the focus from his original statement.

“I think that it is a total distraction from their original statement. Their original statement was that African American studies bring no value to education,” said State Senator Shevrin Jones.

* Here’s the full Pritzker letter…

January 25th, 2023

To Mr. David Coleman,

As Governor of the great state of Illinois, I have spent every day of the last four years fighting to ensure that every Illinoisan has the same opportunities regardless of the color of their skin, the zip code they live in, or the school they attend. That fight includes the opportunity to learn without the threat of bigotry and hatred guiding lessons plans. I am writing to you today to urge the College Board to preserve the fundamental right to an education that does not follow the political grandstanding of Governor DeSantis and the whims of Republicans in Florida.

Advanced Placement courses are a core part of the high school experience for students wishing to push themselves academically and prepare themselves for college. Each year, over 115,000 public school students in Illinois take AP exams. In 2020, our state ranked number one in the country for largest year-over-year increase of students scoring a 3 or higher on these exams. These passing scores translated into credit at public universities across Illinois and the country, resulting in thousands of dollars in tuition saved, often for those students most in-need of financial assistance. We value Advanced Placement courses in this state and have no doubt as to the efficacy of the program. However, I am extremely troubled by recent news reports that claim Governor DeSantis is pressuring the College Board to change the AP African American Studies course in order to fit Florida’s racist and homophobic laws.

Illinois expects any AP course offered on African American Studies to include a factual accounting of history, including the role played by black queer Americans. Illinois will closely examine the official coursework to ensure it includes all necessary history, starting with this nation’s foundation built on slavery, the Civil War where this nation reckoned with that history and the decades of rebuilding and efforts of black Americans to continue their fight for equality and equity to this day.

Black history is American History. Many students who will take this class encounter racism on a personal and systemic level long before they reach high school and take their first AP class. For some, a course such as this may be one of the first times they see their own faces and experiences reflected back to them on the page. They deserve the opportunity, alongside their classmates, to learn the honest and accurate history of the nation they live in now. It’s often said that we study history so that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past. This cannot be achieved when a misleading version of history is taught. If we refuse to teach our next generation honestly we are bound to repeat old cycles and reopen old wounds—fueling the animus that Governor DeSantis uses to score attention and divisive headlines.

Regardless of some leaders’ efforts, ignoring and censoring the accurate reporting of history will not change the realities of the country in which we live. In Illinois, we will not accept this watering down of history. I urge you to maintain your reputation as an academic institution dedicated to the advancement of students and refuse to bow to political pressure that would ask you to rewrite our nation’s true, if sometimes unpleasant, history. One Governor should not have the power to dictate the facts of U.S. history. In Illinois, we reject any curriculum modifications designed to appease extremists like the Florida Governor and his allies.

Sincerely,

Governor JB Pritzker

* Washington Post

The latest controversy in Florida education policies began this month, when the DeSantis administration said a pilot Advanced Placement course on Black history would not be approved by the state Department of Education because it violated state law and “lacks educational value.”

The state Education Department listed “concerns” in the curriculum, including topics covering “Intersectionality and Activism,” “Black Feminist Literary Theory” and “Black Queer Studies.”

“Now who would say that an important part of Black history is queer theory?” DeSantis said at a news conference this week. “That is somebody pushing an agenda on our kids.”

But critics of the governor, who has made eliminating what he calls “woke indoctrination” from schools and businesses a key part of his platform, say he is unfairly targeting Black history by not allowing the course to be taught in Florida. Other Advanced Placement classes, such as European history, have not been scrutinized by the DeSantis administration.

* AP

The state [of Florida] criticizes the section’s inclusion of a reading by Leslie Kay Jones, an assistant sociology professor at Rutgers University. It cites her quote, “Black people produce an unquantifiable amount of content for the same social media corporations that reproduce the white supremacist superstructure that suppresses us.”

Jones said she found no indication that the Movement for Black Lives has ever advocated for prison abolition. She is surprised DeSantis’ staff attacked her for criticizing social media companies, as he does the same.

She said this is why students should have the ability “to come to their own conclusions through an evaluation of primary and secondary texts.”

“Is Ron DeSantis claiming that Florida students are unable to formulate their own opinions?” she said.

* From last year

A federal judge in Florida partially blocked a law championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis designed to limit the discussion of racism and privilege in schools and workplace training. […]

“The State of Florida’s decision to choose which viewpoints are worthy of illumination and which must remain in the shadows has implications for us all,” Walker wrote. “But the First Amendment does not permit the State of Florida to muzzle its university professors, impose its own orthodoxy of viewpoints, and cast us all into the dark.” […]

In his order, Judge Walker, an Obama appointee, opened by reciting the first sentence of 1984, George Orwell’s novel about life under a futuristic totalitarian government.

“‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen,’ and the powers in charge of Florida’s public university system have declared the State has unfettered authority to muzzle its professors in the name of ‘freedom,’” the judge wrote. “This is positively dystopian.”

       

36 Comments
  1. - Google Is Your Friend - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 9:35 am:

    == The course is a College Board pilot project with 60 high schools nationwide. As with all pilot projects, it’s under review before the board rolls it out nationally and won’t be required.==

    Important context to add that the pilot was in development for a decade according to the AP.


  2. - Steve - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 9:35 am:

    What is taught in American history classes has always been somewhat controversial. What’s shocking to me is I can’t imagine anyone teaching American history today without African-Americans at the center of the subject. Who’s teaching history without mentioning the Reconstruction amendments? Does anyone really teach the Dunning School of history which dominated historical interpretation from 1900 to 1960?


  3. - Northsider - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 9:35 am:

    Good for Gov. Pritzker.


  4. - Jerry - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 9:38 am:

    Woke Gov. DeSantos….how has he endured with the horrific way he has been treated. It’s Cancel Culture!


  5. - NotRich - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 9:42 am:

    The White House campaign has begun


  6. - Jibba - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 9:43 am:

    About time that blue states start vocally opposing this type of nonsense. Now he should take on the Texas State Board of Education and their Orwellian textbook revisionist program that affects what our kids learn.


  7. - Amalia - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 9:46 am:

    Welcome and important. Florida and Texas play an outsize influence on educational materials to bad effect already. Unless we fight efforts to restrict teaching, historians are at the mercy of unprofessional thinking.


  8. - Steve Rogers - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 9:48 am:

    “we will not allow any organization to use an academic course as a gateway for indoctrination and a political agenda.”

    Unless it promotes the great white man theory and Republican principles, then that’s cool. /s


  9. - Anthony - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 9:49 am:

    – The White House campaign has begun –

    comical to think he deserves a promotion


  10. - Steve - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 9:51 am:

    -Unless it promotes the great white man theory -

    I’m not aware of any school district that teaches that methodology. The American Historical Association certainly doesn’t endorse that. Political history is in decline and social history now dominates.


  11. - Jerry - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 9:56 am:

    So is Critical White Race Theory approved ciriculum in Florida?


  12. - Jerry - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 9:57 am:

    - comical to think he deserves a promotion -

    And DeSantos does?


  13. - Loop Lady - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 9:58 am:

    What Jubba said. How long will people put up with DeSantis’ BS?

    Good for Gov. Pritzker.

    It may take a self funded Dem candidate to put all this disinformation to bed.

    I can live with that.


  14. - Nick Name - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 10:02 am:

    I would truly miss Gov. Pritzker if he decided to run for president, but a contest between him and DeSantis would be a thing of beauty.

    And Priztker would mop the floor with DeSantis.


  15. - Red Ranger - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 10:18 am:

    Gov Pritzker accusing a Governor of political grandstanding, clearly no mirrors at that Gold Coast mansion of his.


  16. - Anthony - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 10:30 am:

    — comical to think he deserves a promotion -

    And DeSantos does? —

    Uhh.. yeah he just won a “swing state” by 20 points, the voters demonstrated his popularity. Can’t see the difference between JB and DeSantis then YIKES


  17. - H-W - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 10:31 am:

    I am very glad Illinois is responding to the attempts by DeSantis and his ilk to deny there is anything special and/or noteworthy regarding the experiences of African Americans that all our children should learn.

    Given his Italian ancestry, I wonder how DeSantis feels about Christopher Columbus and his extermination of the Taíno people of the Caribbean Islands (Cuban American and Puerto Rican history)?

    White washing history is the past. Conserving that past is to lie to our children about our true history as a nation. Doing nothing and teaching nothing only ensures that nothing changes, and problems remain.


  18. - Norseman - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 10:32 am:

    I agree with JB’s pushback on DeSantis’ racism/bigotry.


  19. - Jaded - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 10:33 am:

    They did not say “African American studies bring no value to education” they said the course “significantly lacks educational value.” Not sure if it lacks educational value or not, but that was the comment. Of course no one commenting today has actually reviewed the course so none of us have any clue whether they are right or wrong.


  20. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 10:35 am:

    === yeah he just won a “swing state”===

    Florida is not a swing state by any measure.

    The statewides this cycle and past cycle have shown the Dems in that state can’t “swing” multiple statewide wins, and further, the polling to policy in Florida are seemingly not in line with swing-type thinking.

    It’s like saying “Ohio is a bellwether”

    It’s not. It’s solid Republican. Like Florida.

    Michigan, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, and North Carolina are swing states and/or are trending swing.

    You think Florida at this pace will bring more “Blue” voters?


  21. - TheInvisibleMan - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 10:36 am:

    –Now who would say that an important part of Black history is queer theory?–

    Maybe the teachers of that subject would say that? I don’t know, I don’t have much education on this. Maybe that’s why it should be taught?

    Instead, I was educated with books going into detail on the heterosexual marriage habits of white male royalty in 16th century Europe.


  22. - Lucky Pierre - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 10:37 am:

    JB is ranked 36th most popular Governor and De Santis is ranked 21st.

    Clearly the Governors who stay closer to the center and stay away from cable news and culture war issues are much more popular with the voters

    https://morningconsult.com/2023/01/12/kentucky-beshear-ranks-as-most-popular-democratic-governor/


  23. - Roman - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 10:41 am:

    DeSantis and JB are both practicing good presidential primary politics here. They should challenge each other to a series of debates.


  24. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 10:43 am:

    === JB is ranked 36th most popular Governor and De Santis is ranked 21st.===

    Again, wholly dishonest to any real measure.

    Electorally, both had significant and sizable wins, that can’t be denied or disputed, this idea that being “more popular” in a subgroup that the 49 other governors are not participating in is a phony look at anything, especially after an election where both enjoyed sweeping wins.

    Like this nonsense…

    === Clearly the Governors who stay closer to the center and stay away from cable news and culture war issues are much more popular with the voters===

    Kay Ivey of Alabama is 9th. Ninth.

    You think Ivey is… middle of the road?

    Your premise is silly


  25. - cermak_rd - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 10:43 am:

    To somehow teach American history without discussing African Americans is weird. Slavery was a ve


  26. - cermak_rd - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 10:46 am:

    Slavery is one of the reasons for the revolution, defines the young republic, explains the civil war and the confederacy, the reconstruction amendments, the repression of blacks in the south, white flight and red lining in the north.


  27. - Steve Rogers - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 10:49 am:

    @Steve, “I’m not aware of any school district that teaches that methodology. The American Historical Association certainly doesn’t endorse that. Political history is in decline and social history now dominates.”

    See that /s at the end of my comment. It means I’m being sarcastic.


  28. - Grandson of Man - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 10:56 am:

    DeSantis and his many supporters are trying to deliberately damage the historically marginalized, by marginalizing them even more and silencing them. Rauner and Griffin deliberately tried to break Illinois. They all belong together.


  29. - Pundent - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 10:57 am:

    =JB is ranked 36th most popular Governor and De Santis is ranked 21st.=

    I don’t think the litmus test for evaluating racist behavior is popularity. But you do you.


  30. - Chicagonk - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 10:58 am:

    Pritzker wading into the culture wars - I looked through the AP African American History curriculum. and it looks fairly benign. I do think that if they are going to read the New Jim Crow, they should also read John Pfaff’s book Locked In.


  31. - OneMan - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 11:16 am:

    AP was pitched to me as a parent (my HS didn’t have explicit AP classes) as a way for your kid to look better on a college application and to have college credit that can be applied so you can spend less on college.

    As a parent, I expect an AP class to have college-level content. As someone who has paid for 16 semesters of college as of yesterday, I would expect a college-level course on this subject to be more than facts about people. Otherwise, why take it? You can read a few books and get facts. You don’t need to sit in a lecture for that.

    The AP should format the class as it would be at a college. Otherwise, it isn’t an AP class. At best, it is prep for their test, and it is a test prep class.

    finally, the GOP needs to make up its mind, is public education terrible, or is it able to ‘brainwash’ your kids because the idea that it can do both is counterintuitive.


  32. - CapnCrunch - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 11:26 am:

    “As Governor of the great state of Illinois,…..I urge you to……refuse to bow to political pressure….”

    Me too.


  33. - Lake villa township dem pc - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 12:12 pm:

    Nationalize college board, that is all.


  34. - ArchPundit - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 12:26 pm:

    OneMan is correct here. AP curriculum is designed by college faculty because it is for college credit. What a governor wants should be irrelevant and if a state doesn’t want to run the course, that’s fine-don’t run it.

    Unfortunately, College Board long ago gave up the good fight and has allowed several curriculums to be dumbed down due to political worries. I’ve scored AP US Govt & Politics exams about 18 times I think and this started about 15 years ago (I first scored the exams in 1999 IIRC).

    For some of the other comments, it’s important to keep in mind, this course is specifically about African-American studies which is more than history. It includes elements of sociology, economics, psychology, history, etc. US History does include material on African-American history, but it’s obviously broader as a course in terms of history, but also doesn’t cover the breadth of A-A studies.

    ===Who’s teaching history without mentioning the Reconstruction amendments? Does anyone really teach the Dunning School of history which dominated historical interpretation from 1900 to 1960?

    Everyone mentions it, but much of the American history at the high school and somewhat college level, still treats Reconstruction as an afterthought and the influence southern states like Texas and Florida have on textbooks has reinforced this. AP is a possible antidote in US History, but I do think AP has been, let’s say, very attentive to concerns in the south about teaching Reconstruction as the current literature views it.

    I don’t know AP US history like I do Govt & Politics, but I do think I can say much of the curriculum with AP is not as updated as it should be. There are several reasons for this–one is politics. One is who sits on the college curriculum committees. Most of those committees are not valued in the profession and I’d say a lot of the time the courses are behind where the fields are. One of the great things about the African-American Studies curriculum is that it has had a strong committee that is making it like a college course and is up-to-date.


  35. - JS Mill - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 1:38 pm:

    =They did not say “African American studies bring no value to education” they said the course “significantly lacks educational value.” Not sure if it lacks educational value or not, but that was the comment. Of course no one commenting today has actually reviewed the course so none of us have any clue whether they are right or wrong.=

    DeSantis does not know and does not care. He is simply playing to the Woke mob on the right.

    I would be willing to bet that the course in question has more educational value than any course taught in florida.

    AP courses, with one exception that I know of, are elective courses that may achieve college credit with a score of 3 or higher (depending on the university) on the AP exam.

    ArchPundit makes a number of valid points about college board (the AP and SAT developer), but even with those shortcomings they are still the gold standard for advanced study courses (from a general provider) and they try to ensure that all kids regardless of location or socio economics get the same standard of instruction and must pass the same test.


  36. - ArchPundit - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 2:02 pm:

    ===ArchPundit makes a number of valid points about college board (the AP and SAT developer), but even with those shortcomings they are still the gold standard for advanced study courses (from a general provider) and they try to ensure that all kids regardless of location or socio economics get the same standard of instruction and must pass the same test.

    I think that’s a good point and my frustrations with College Board sometimes makes me forget this. They are better than alternatives in terms of availability and without AP there would not be the same opportunities in many communities.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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