Officials within the Alabama Department of Education have destroyed at least $16,500 worth of training materials for early education teachers across the state, disposing of modules meant to help educators positively navigate concepts like race, sexuality and gender identity in classrooms.
The materials were destroyed earlier this year at the order of Gov. Kay Ivey (R) because they contained so-called “woke” content, which conservatives across the country have turned into a political boogeyman in their crusade against public education.
The manual, intended for pre-K educators and entitled “Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Education,” was produced by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and had been purchased by Barbara Cooper, who had up until May been the director of the state’s Department of Childhood Education. A copy of the manual costs $165, and at least 100 copies were seen in a photograph taken by an anonymous government employee at a recycling plant near the department’s headquarters in May.
Upon receiving a complaint from a state legislator — who criticized the discussion of white privilege, systemic racism and LGBTQ families within the text — Ivey’s office contacted Cooper about the materials. Cooper, who also sits on the board of NAEYC, agreed to denounce the manuals as being inconsistent with Alabama’s laws, describing them as “unacceptable” for use within the state. Nevertheless, Ivey forced Cooper’s resignation in mid-April, and her last day in office was on May 1.
“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,” Ivey said in a statement regarding Cooper’s ouster.
The photo of the materials being destroyed was taken on May 2, the day after Cooper’s final day in office. AL.com obtained the photo this month from an anonymous state employee and confirmed its authenticity shortly after.
In a statement responding to news of the manuals being destroyed, NAEYC noted that the content was not meant to be taught directly to students, but rather existed to assist teachers in managing their classrooms.
“While not a curriculum, [the manual] is a responsive, educator-developed, educator-informed and research-based resource that has been honed over multiple generations to support teachers in helping all children thrive,” a representative from NAEYC told AL.com.
NAEYC condemned the firing of Cooper in a statement on its website earlier this year.
“Our nation has a long history of educators, parents, and policymakers who have put their lives and livelihoods on the line in support of progress for children and families; Dr. Barbara Cooper, one of NAEYC’s Governing Board members who was forced out of her state leadership position in Alabama over the use of NAEYC’s Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) book, is the latest but likely not the last,” NAEYC officials said in an open letter.
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