How Censorship and Erasure of History is Effecting Education

Very recently, the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, made a decision that is causing significant backlash and sparking protests all over the southern state. DeSantis has blocked a new African American studies AP course from being taught in Florida schools. He has so far been extremely vague about his reasons for this decision, claiming that the course “As presented, the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.” There were numerous topics that would be covered in the course that he deemed to be “concerns” including “Intersectionality and Activism,” “Black Feminist Literary Theory” and “Black Queer Studies.” Occurrences such as this have been happening more and more frequently as Republicans have started pushing restrictions of certain topics in schools. This has become a severe issue in many states across the country. They have tried censoring, limiting, and even banning books covering topics such as race, history, and LGBT issues in schools and libraries. Back in Florida, the governor’s office is trying to force colleges to provide their information regarding their spending on topics such as diversity, equity, inclusion, and CRT, which would make it extremely easy to cut funding to these programs.

These crusades against the education of diverse topics are by no means a new problem. In 2010, a law was passed that banned a Mexican American studies program in schools, prohibiting courses that are “designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group” and “promote the overthrow of the United States government.” When these programs weren’t immediately shut down in schools, the state superintendent at the time compared the program to methods used by Hitler during the Nazi Regime. The law wasn’t reversed or determined unconstitutional until seven years later in 2017.

The constant assault on these programs, courses, and other educational materials is no accident, and it would be a significant problem if they were allowed to succeed. These programs have all sought to educate students on the histories of marginalized groups. While the examples above were shown to have impacted African Americans, Mexican Americans, and members of the LGBT, this is a problem that has the capacity to impact any and all minority groups. While the proponents of these bannings claim that this is in order to “protect children from indoctrination”, it does nothing but the opposite. Silencing the voices and erasing the history of these groups does not “protect children from indoctrination,” it just restricts their worldview and keeps them ignorant to the reality of what different people face in the world. Children belonging to the majority group will be completely ignorant to the experiences of their minority peers, and minority children will never learn their own history or see themselves in their studies.

The process of censoring also downplays or erases entirely the injustices that minorities have faced as well as the historical events where these groups were mistreated. The justification for this was usually that it would make students upset or uncomfortable. They especially claimed that children would feel “guilty” for being in the same group as groups who have marginalized others. While these topics might need to be approached carefully, they can and are commonly properly taught and discussed in ways that are purely educational. It is a well known saying that “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” While these events were atrocities and learning about them might be shocking or depressing, knowing that they were real events with real victims can build empathy in students and prevent them from happening again when they are adults.

Fortunately, this crusade against historical education has not gone on unopposed. A U.S. district judge, “Mark E. Walker,” has suspended parts of DeSantis’s new law, opening his injunction with a line from the George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984” and called the law “positively dystopian.” This decision has been widely supported. For example, a law professor has shared their praise, saying, “Viewpoint-based discrimination allows the government to skew the marketplace of ideas to its own position. That’s why it’s so reprehensible,” referring to DeSantis’s law. The governor of Illinois has also condemned the law, urging the College Board to not be swayed by DeSantis’s pressure. He addressed them, saying, “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.”