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Sunday May 26th

OPINION: The real 21st century censors

(Photo courtesy of Flickr/ “Ron DeSantis” by Gage Skidmore. July 22, 2022).
(Photo courtesy of Flickr/ “Ron DeSantis” by Gage Skidmore. July 22, 2022).

By Corinne Coakley

On Feb. 1, the first day of Black History Month, the College Board released its revised AP African American studies course.

The revisions came after resistance from the Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, and his administration. Florida’s education department contacted the College Board and claimed that the course is “inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.” In a tweet, Florida commissioner of Education, Manny Diaz Jr., listed the department’s concerns about the course and said, “Despite the lies from the Biden White House, Florida rejected an AP course filled with Critical Race Theory and other obvious violations of Florida law. We proudly require the teaching of African American history. We do not accept woke indoctrination masquerading as education.”

In the new version of the AP African American Studies course, many Black writers and scholars have been removed from the curriculum, particularly anyone remotely associated with critical race theory, a most prized buzzword used by many Republicans. Also missing from the revised course are units on Black queer studies and Black feminist thought. Additionally, according to an article by NPR, important movements and organizations were eliminated, such as Black Lives Matter.

For me, the craziest thing about this whole controversy is the hypocrisy of so many Republicans. They love to denounce “cancel culture” and claim they, and all Republican voters, are victims of censorship and oppression, yet the Republican party is the party of the “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” the “STOP WOKE” act and book banning. The Republican party seems to be far more interested in controlling education and limiting free speech than the Democratic party. 

You don’t need to do any deep digging to find examples of conservatives crying censorship. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene wearing a mask with the word “CENSORED” sewn across it as she speaks into a microphone on Capitol Hill, Senator Josh Hawley writing an article for The New York Post about the “muzzling of America” after Simon and Schuester canceled a book deal with Hawley in the wake of the deadly Capitol riot and Trump claiming that conservatives are systematically “silenced” on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. 

While these conservatives cite cancel culture and censorship for any and all of their problems, they develop policy that actually strips Americans of certain freedoms.

For example, the “Parental Rights in Education'' bill, more widely known as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” was signed by Ron DeSantis in March 2022 and bans the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida public schools from kindergarten to third grade. The “Stop Woke” act, also signed by Ron DeSantis in 2022, bars all educational institutions and businesses from teaching about racial issues that would cause any white people to feel guilt or distress for past racial injustices. According to Scripp News, the act also “limits discussion that social status is determined by race or gender.” In recent months, many Republicans and conservative advocacy groups have worked to ban books with LGBTQ+ characters. According to Business Insider, the top three most banned books in conservative school districts all deal with the concept of gender fluidity. 

It seems pretty clear to me that the 21st century censors are Republican politicians and conservative activists. Sure, Democrats and liberal voters often call out racist social media posts or artists with questionable beliefs and backgrounds, and refuse to read/watch/listen to their work, but are they writing laws to ban everyone from interacting with their work? For example, when J.K. Rowling’s transphobic statements were revealed to the public, did Democrats ban the Harry Potter series from dozens of school districts? No. They did not. 

The hypocrisy is clear: Many Republicans cry censorship and cancel culture when they are criticized (even as they hold the microphones and speak on news broadcasts viewed by millions of people), and all the while they cancel books, classes and history. This conflict between the College Board and the DeSantis administration is yet another Republican attack on academic freedom.


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