When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) blocked the first draft of an Advanced Placement African American studies course, he insisted he did not want to eliminate Black history, but only to control it. It might seem that his campaign has succeeded: The College Board announced a new watered-down curriculum that transformed resistance figures such as Frederick Douglass into “Black Conservatives,” even as they insisted the changes had nothing to do with political blowback.
Yet history tells us these efforts to use Black history to teach a heroic story of White America probably won’t succeed in the long run. For more than a century, conservatives have tried to use history classes to infuse students with, in the words of one 1920s activist, “a patriotic and unswerving loyalty to our United States.” They’ve done this by insisting on a curriculum that twists and distorts the United States’ racial history, turning centuries of struggle and oppression into patriotic tales of American heroism. They fear that a more accurate narrative might diminish students’ love of country.
The results have been poor. It has always been hard enough for students to learn basic facts about America’s past. By making it unacceptable to teach the truth of America’s racial history — even when the historical facts are unambiguous — conservatives have managed to ensure that students learn even less. [Continue reading…]