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Arkansas rejects AP African American Studies, cites Arkansas law on “prohibited topics” Judd Legum



Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

The Arkansas Department of Education (DOE) abruptly rejected AP African American Studies, saying the course may violate Arkansas law. “The department encourages the teaching of all American history and supports rigorous courses not based on opinions or indoctrination,” Kimberly Mundell, Director of Communications for the Arkansas DOE, told Popular Information on Monday. Mundell said the course may violate a new Arkansas law regarding “prohibited topics” in public schools. 

In March, Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) signed the LEARNS Act, which prohibits “teaching that would indoctrinate students with ideologies, such as Critical Race Theory [CRT]” or “that conflict with the principle of equal protection under the law.” The law, however, explicitly allows teaching the history of racism and “public policy issues of the day and related ideas that individuals may find unwelcome, disagreeable, or offensive.” The Arkansas DOE did not explain what in the AP African American Studies course constitutes prohibited indoctrination.

The College Board, which has spent a decade developing the AP African American Studies curriculum, describes it as “an evidence-based introduction to African American studies” that “reaches into a variety of fields—literature, the arts and humanities, political science, geography, and science—to explore the vital contributions and experiences of African Americans.” 

The first signs of trouble for AP African American Studies in Arkansas were reported over the weekend by the Arkansas Times. According to the Arkansas Times, “[a]n official from the Arkansas [DOE] reportedly alerted high school teachers by phone on Friday that the class would not be recognized for course credit by the state in the 2023-24 school year.” The decision by the Arkansas DOE to directly contact teachers — bypassing school district officials, principals, and other administrators — is highly unusual. The teachers reportedly were told they could continue to offer AP African American Studies, but it would not count toward graduation requirements, would not be graded on a 5.0 scale like other AP courses, and the state would not pay the $90 fee for students to take the AP test. 

But Mundell’s statements to Popular Information on Monday raise questions about whether any Arkansas school can still offer AP African American Studies. Mundell warned that anyone who teaches the course would be “at risk of violating Arkansas law.”

Some high schools in Arkansas, including Central High in Little Rock, offered AP African American Studies as part of a pilot program last year before the LEARNS Act was in effect. More high schools, including North Little Rock High School, the North Little Rock Center for Excellence charter high school, and Jacksonville High School, were planning to offer the course this year.

Mundell also told Popular Information that the Arkansas DOE was concerned that the AP African American Studies course would not be recognized for college credit. But, according to the College Board, more than 200 colleges and universities have already decided to award credit for AP African American Studies. The Arkansas Times reports that this includes the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, the state’s flagship public university.

Mundell noted that other AP courses, including AP European History, were approved and vetted for Arkansas schools. 

“This decision is a shameful and bigoted political stunt that will directly hurt our students and reinforce unfortunate stereotypes about Arkansas,” Little Rock School District Board member Ali Noland told Popular Information. “The Arkansas Department of Education’s statement asserting that this course could put teachers at risk of violating Arkansas law is false, and I am extremely angry that the State would make direct threats against educators who are simply doing their job teaching a course that has already been approved by the prestigious College Board, accepted for credit many colleges and universities, and was taught in Arkansas public schools last year.”

The College Board, in a statement to Popular Information, noted one of the Arkansas high schools influenced by the state DOE’s decision is featured in the course. “Six schools [Arkansas] were slated to participate in this second year of the pilot of this transformative course. Among them is Central High School, a site vital to the country’s civil rights movement, and its Little Rock 9 and their role in public school desegregation efforts are covered in the class,” The College Board said. “On this first day of school, we share in their surprise, confusion, and disappointment at this new guidance that the course won’t count toward graduation credits or weighted the same as other AP courses offered in the state…. Arkansas teachers and students have done extraordinary classroom work in AP African American Studies that has been celebrated in local, regional and national media, and their excellent work should be allowed to continue this school year.”

The Florida experience

Arkansas is following in Florida’s footsteps. Beginning in July 2022, the Florida Department of Education has objected to the content of the AP African American Studies course. On September 23, 2022, the Florida Department of Education “issued a Memo to [the] College Board stating the AP African American Studies course could not be added to the Course Code Directory without revisions.” In a January 12, 2023 letter, the DeSantis administration said that AP African American Studies is “​​inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.” DeSantis accused the College Board of pushing a “political agenda” because it touched on topics like queer studies and reparations. 

In February, the College Board released a revised curriculum that addressed nearly all of the objections raised by the DeSantis administration. The new curriculum, for instance, eliminates lessons on Black Lives Matter, the case for reparations, and queer studies — all topics listed as “concerns” by DeSantis officials. Previously a required part of the course framework, these topics now appear in a list of suggested research topics for students that “can be refined by states and districts.”

In the introduction to the revised framework, the College Board explained it “opposes indoctrination” and notes that “AP students are not required to feel certain ways about themselves or the course content” — echoing talking points used by DeSantis and other conservatives. 

In response to a backlash, the College Board rolled back some of the proposed changes. In the end, AP African American Studies “remains off limits in Florida.”

Who is Jacob Oliva?

It’s not a surprise that Arkansas is charting a similar course to Florida. On December 29, 2022, Sanders nominated Jacob Oliva, “a key education leader for Governor Ron DeSantis in Florida,” to be Arkansas’ Secretary of Education. 

At the Florida Department of Education, Oliva served as senior chancellor, where he was “a leader implementing Governor DeSantis’ parental rights policies and bold education reforms.” His duties included reviewing district-wide LGBTQ support guides and issuing warning letters to school districts over their LGBTQ and racial equity policies. 

Oliva also defended Florida’s ban on CRT in schools, claiming that CRT puts people in two categories — ”you’re either an oppressor or that you’ve been oppressed based on your ethnicity.” As many experts have pointed out, however, this description of CRT is a distortion of the framework. CRT is about how structures — not individuals — perpetuate racial inequality.

Oliva is also under investigation by federal authorities over his role in a bid-rigging scheme that “attempt[ed] to steer a multimillion-dollar contract to a politically connected company with ties to DeSantis’ former education commissioner, Richard Corcoran.”

In Arkansas, Oliva has the power to review materials that “would indoctrinate students with ideologies, such as CRT” thanks to an executive order signed by Sanders in January 2023. Titled the “Executive Order to Prohibit Indoctrination and Critical Race Theory in Schools,” the order gives Oliva the ability to “amend, annul, or alter” rules, regulations, or materials found in violation. 

In June, Oliva spoke at a conference hosted by the right-wing parent group Moms for Liberty. This week, Oliva told 40/29 News that AP African American Studies “could potentially run afoul” of Sanders’ Executive Order, the LEARNS Act, and other Arkansas laws. 


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Mark Pincus: Biden Is Even Riskier Than Trump Mark Pincus




“Only one strategy has a chance for the party and the country: an open convention. There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain,” writes Mark Pincus. (Mandel Ngan via Getty Images)

Being a large donor to the Democratic Party is like having elective surgery. You know it’s the right thing to do, but you also know it will be painful. You are often going to be thrown under the bus by the very candidates you support. 

I would know. I maxed out my giving in the last four presidential elections to the Democratic candidate: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and Biden again, this cycle. 

Perhaps that makes me sound partisan, but I don’t align with either party. Like many of my peers in Silicon Valley, my views can be described as libertarian. I’m skeptical of big government, and both parties have recklessly printed money and spent the U.S. into a deep, dark debt hole. 

And unlike a lot of President Biden’s donors, I don’t think everything Donald Trump says or does is awful. I’ve been encouraged by the unwavering support for Israel he’s shown at the RNC this week. And looking back, I like that Trump was tough on China and Iran, and that he pushed European countries to contribute their fair share to NATO. 

I am also very scared of the extreme left, who seem to hate capitalism—a force I see as the engine of our exceptional country.

So why did I throw my support behind Biden?

Because throughout this campaign I have thought that a second Trump presidency is risky. In the past he has supported right-wing policies on abortion and climate. He’s also been oddly positive about dictators like Vladimir Putin. 

At this week’s RNC, the party of Trump sounds more mainstream. Who knows which Trump we will get? It’s a gamble. 

In December I attended a small lunch conversation with Biden. He was engaging and thoughtful. Our interactions gave me confidence that he still had enough drive to beat Trump a second time and be a reliable leader.

Seven months later, I have a radically different perspective. Biden looks even riskier than Trump. His debate performance made his age and competency the central issue in the 2024 election. And Biden and the Democratic Party seem to be moving further left by the day. 

Many of us are left wondering who is currently running the country. How else to explain the insane proposal he just put forward to put caps on grocery prices and rent increases?

Biden, in his current state, cannot beat Trump. Everyone knows this. Which is why, in the past few days, Schumer, Pelosi, and now Obama have called for Biden to step aside.

So what comes next? 

There are those who suggest that the ticket should automatically go to Kamala Harris. I strongly disagree.

Only one strategy has a chance for the party and the country: an open convention. There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Turning the convention into an open forum would be dramatic and exciting, and offer the best chance to produce a leader with a positive, mainstream agenda for our country. Someone we could trust more than Trump, but with a platform that is also about economic growth, secure borders, support for allies like Israel, and climate and civil liberties protection. Josh Shapiro, Gretchen Whitmer, and Cory Booker are strong contenders. There are also black swan outsiders who could energize this race.

Some Democratic insiders continue to insist on accepting fate and remaining unified behind Biden. That’s ridiculous. It’s time to get behind a candidate and platform that has a viable chance of winning and moving our country forward. Let’s find out who that is on August 19 in Chicago.

Mark Pincus is the founder of Zynga. Follow him on Twitter @markpinc


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Disenchanted with Democrats: The Black Voters Going for Trump Bari Weiss




For the past few decades, it’s been conventional wisdom in D.C. that “demographics are destiny.” That the increased share of immigrants, young people, and racial minorities across the country would build a bulletproof coalition for the Democratic Party, swelling their ranks and keeping them in power forever.

Those who deviated from this expectation could expect to be called sellouts, race traitors, and Uncle Toms. Recall Joe Biden’s infamous interview with radio host Charlamagne tha God, when he said: “If you have a problem figuring out if you’re for me or for Trump, then you ain’t black.”

But in the past year, Donald Trump has been winning over more minority voters than any Republican in decades. Recent polls have consistently shown that Trump has reached a shocking 20 percent support among black voters. That’s compared to the 8 percent he got in 2016. And Biden’s polling with black voters has dropped dramatically.

This is a monumental, and to many, unexpected turn. And it was noticeable at the RNC. When Michael Moynihan went to the 2016 Republican Convention in Cleveland, the audience was more monochromatic. While certainly not as racially diverse as the Democratic coalition, the convention in Milwaukee felt younger and less white.

Monday night, Amber Rose opened the proceedings. Tuesday night, Madeline Brame, the mother of a murdered veteran, gave a thunderous speech explaining why she’s supporting Trump. She said: “Our eyes have been opened, just like so many other poor minorities across America. Donald Trump shares our values, love of God and family and country. He’s been a victim of the same corrupt system that I have been and my family has been.”

What’s behind this shift? Why do Biden and the Democratic Party seem to be losing their edge with black voters? And could this end up making a real difference for the 2024 election?

Last night, Michael Moynihan went to an event at the RNC put on by the Black Conservative Federation to ask them why they think that MAGA conservatism is appealing to black voters.

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Abigail Shrier: California’s New Law Lets Schools Keep Secrets from Parents Abigail Shrier




Protests at a Chino Valley Board of Education meeting on gender policy on July 20, 2023, in Chino, California. (Photo by David McNew via Getty Images)

Child predators follow a common playbook: target the victim, gain their trust, fill a need, and, crucially, isolate the child from her parents. For several years, this has also been standard California state protocol with regard to schoolchildren questioning their gender identities. On Monday, this scheme became law.

The “SAFETY Act,” AB 1955, signed by California Democratic governor Gavin Newsom, legally forbids schools from adopting any policy that would force them to disclose “any information related to a pupil’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression to any other person without the pupil’s consent.” Schools may not, as a matter of policy, inform parents of a child’s new gender identity unless the child volunteers her approval. The law also prohibits schools from punishing any school employee found to have “supported a pupil” hurtling down a path toward risky and irreversible hormones and surgeries.

The law effectively shuts down the local parents’ rights movement in California by eliminating its most important tool: the ability to organize at the community level to stop schools from deceiving them. No longer can families hope to convince their school boards to require schools to notify parents that their daughter, Sophie, has been going by “Sebastian” in class; that her teacher, school counselor, and principal have all been celebrating Sebastian’s transgender identity; that they’ve been letting her use the boys’ bathroom and reifying the sense that she is “really a boy.” 

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the law supports the priming of minor children for a secret life with a new gender identity. This includes having school-aged children participate in sexualized discussions and make identity declarations with school faculty, which are often actively hidden from the child’s parents. Elon Musk called the law “the final straw” for families and announced his intention to move both SpaceX and X, two of California’s most prominent tech companies, out of the state as a result. “The goal [of] this diabolical law,” he tweeted, “is to break the parent-child relationship and put the state in charge of your children.”

While researching my book, Irreversible Damage, and in the four years since its publication, I have talked to hundreds of parents whose daughters suddenly identified as transgender. Many of their daughters were encouraged in this revelation by school counselors and teachers in school districts across America. One parent told me a California school counselor had given her son the address of an LGBTQ youth shelter and suggested he emancipate himself from parents who were loving but skeptical of his sudden transgender identity. Another recent California law, AB 665, would have made reclaiming that young man from the youth center all but impossible because he was over the age of twelve.

In California, instruction in sexual orientation and gender identity has been mandatory for all public school students K–12 since the passage of the Healthy Youth Act in 2016. Because such instruction typically occurs within the required “anti-bullying curriculum” rather than the sex education curriculum, parents cannot elect that their children opt out of what is, in practice, a full-bore indoctrination into gender ideology. 

When a child then predictably decides in class that she too may be nonbinary or transgender, this revelation will often trigger schools’ gender support plan, effectively a school-wide conspiracy to promote the child’s new name and gender identity without tipping off Mom and Dad. Official documents and emails and report cards are sent to parents to preserve the child’s birth name and pronouns, concealing the social transition from parents. 

I have talked to parents who discovered their middle-school daughters had spent the better part of an entire academic year known to the entire school as “Spencer” or “Ethan.” One of these girls had even roomed with the boys on an overnight school trip.

I have investigated many cases in which social transitions were concealed from families. In no case did the girl flourish with this new identity. Maintaining a new, secret identity more often became a weight and burden to the girls. Inexplicably to the parents, their daughters became morose, dropped activities they once loved, wore baggier clothing, and begged to cut their hair shorter. The parents became desperate and unsure of what to do. The hidden transition resulted in children’s alienation from loving parents trying to protect them. 

But in the years since I first reported on this practice, political opposition has grown. Parents whose daughters were socially transitioned behind their backs have filed lawsuits against the school districts in California and Florida and Michigan. California public school teachers have sued school districts to block policies that could result in their firing if they inform parents that their children’s names and identities have been changed behind their backs. And a recent statewide initiative in California to require parental notification before a school changes a child’s gender identity as well as ban puberty blockers and gender surgeries for minors garnered over 400,000 signatures, falling just short of making it onto the ballot. 

The SAFETY Act would significantly stymie, if not eliminate, this local pushback to the increasingly unpopular practice of schools playing adoptive parents with other people’s children. (Although already, the Chino Valley Unified School District has filed suit against Newsom over this act.) The plain text of the California law claims that it merely prevents schools from adopting policies that “forcibly out” trans kids—as if confused fifth-grade girls are in the same position as closeted gay adults in decades past who risked arrest and firing for being outed. 

The law’s clever sponsors are typically quiet on the subject of “outing” to whom. The entire school already knows that Lily is now “Tyler.” Teachers will cheerfully share that information with each other, school mental health staff, administrators, and other students. The only ones who don’t get to know are the parents.

A favorite talking point of activists on the left is that with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity, schools must keep secrets with young children to protect them from transphobic and homophobic parents. Even in the most progressive of states, the claim that parents who discover that their child is transgender might abuse or kick her out is used to justify a policy that would otherwise be difficult to understand and impossible to justify.

Aurora Regino is a single mother in California who last year sued the Chico Unified School District for secretly pushing social transition on her then–11-year-old daughter. Regino told me that the “phobia” rationale seemed “ridiculous.” She added, “How is it not outing a kid if you’re telling an entire school that they’re a different sex? That’s outing right there. So everybody knows except the parents? That doesn’t really make any sense to me.”

Erin Friday, a California attorney and author of bills in several states requiring parental notification for any change in a child’s gender identity at school, vented exasperation at the idea that California parents are so homophobic or transphobic they cannot be trusted. “This is California, for crying out loud.”

Regino agreed. “Both my girls are very active. We do swimming, theater, soccer, softball. We are in connection with I don’t know how many families. And there’s not one family that I can think of that we are around that would kick out their kid because they thought that they were ‘nonbinary’ or trans or gay,” she said. “I mean, to me, that’s an extreme statement that these kids are going to get kicked out. Are we saying one in ten thousand? So we’re going to risk the rest of the children and separate them from their parents during the time that they need them the most?” Her now–13-year-old daughter no longer wants to be a boy.

One might think Newsom would realize that a policy this unpopular for Democrats could easily become a political albatross in an election year. Perhaps realizing this, the governor—who is frequently mentioned as a possible 2024 presidential candidate if Biden drops out—when defending the bill resorts to dissembling. On Wednesday, the governor’s press office declared on X that the bill “protects the child-parent relationship by PREVENTING politicians & school staff from inappropriately intervening in family matters & attempting to control if, when & how families have deeply personal conversations.” The bill only “protects” the parent-child relationship if you assume that relationship depends on the parents’ being entirely ignorant of their child’s growing attachment to this new, secret identity.

Governor Newsom also declared: “Under California law, minors CANNOT legally change their name or gender WITHOUT parental consent.” That’s placing a lot of weight on the word legally. The obscurantist governor is correct only in the most technical sense: yes, a child’s legal name can be changed only on official records with parental approval. But in the world of the SAFETY Act, the parents may be the only ones in a child’s life who use that name. 

In the past few years, moderates across the American political spectrum have awakened to the pernicious effects of gender ideology on children. England, Finland, Norway, and Sweden have, in recent years, warned the public of the risks of pediatric gender medicine, banned the use of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones in children, or restricted their use to research settings. The Cass Review, published this year by one of England’s premier physicians, noted the serious risks and specious benefits of pediatric gender transition. My own investigation, published four years earlier, reached the same conclusions. The Cass Review also acknowledged that social transition is an active intervention that puts many children on an inexorable path to medical transition. 

Recent polling shows that voters across the political spectrum believe that schools should be required to inform parents if their children are using different gender pronouns at school than they are at home.

But California Democrats appear ready to drag their party down with them. Parents’ best hope may be federal legislation mandating parental notification before a school can reassign a child’s name and gender. Candidates for president and vice president ought to be asked whether they would support such a bill.

Until her daughter was socially transitioned behind her back, Regino had been a lifelong progressive Democrat. “Now, I’m a registered Republican,” she said.

Abigail Shrier is the New York Times bestselling author of Bad Therapy: Why the Kids Aren’t Growing Up

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