The Republican governor of Alabama Kay Ivey announced on Friday that she had replaced her director of early childhood education over the use of a teacher training book written by a nationally recognized group, which she deemed to be teaching "woke concepts" because of language about inclusion and structural racism.
In response to Ivey's concerns regarding the distribution of the book to state-run prekindergartens, Barbara Cooper was removed as director of Alabama's Department of Early Childhood Education. Gina Maiola, Ivey spokesperson, identified the book as the Developmentally Appropriate Practice Book, 4th edition, published by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). According to Maiola, the books have been removed from state classrooms.
"The education of Alabama's children is my top priority as governor, and there is absolutely no room to distract or take away from this mission. Let me be crystal clear: Woke concepts that have zero to do with a proper education and that are divisive at the core have no place in Alabama classrooms at any age level, let alone with our youngest learners," Ivey said in a statement.
The statement comes at a time when conservative politicians have criticized "woke" educational practices, with schools sometimes becoming a point of contention over diversity training and parents' rights.
Ivey's office said Cooper was asked first to "send a memo to disavow this book and to immediately discontinue its use." Cooper did not respond, but the governor replaced Cooper and accepted her resignation.
As a guide for early childhood educators, the book does not serve as a curriculum for children.
A press release from the governor's office cited two examples from the book - one discussing white privilege and how "the United States is built on systemic and structural racism" and another teaching LGBTQ+ inclusion to 4-year-olds. Those sections discuss combating bias and making sure all children feel welcome, according to a copy obtained by The Associated Press.
"Early childhood programs also serve and welcome families that represent many compositions. Children from all families (e.g., single parent, grandparent-led, foster, LGBTQIA+) need to hear and see messages that promote equality, dignity, and worth," the book states.
According to the section on structural racism, "systemic and structural racism ... has permeated every institution and system through policies and practices that position people of color in oppressive, repressive, and menial positions. The early education system is not immune to these forces." It explains that preschool is one place where children "begin to see how they are represented in society" and that the classroom should be a place of "affirmation and healing."
Kay Ivey's refusal to acknowledge the structural discrimination affecting marginalized communities in America and the need to educate young children to accept and acknowledge our societal differences clearly indicates that bigotry is at the root of her ridiculous decision to replace her director of early childhood education.