Alabama Gov. ousts top education official over book promoting 'equality, dignity, and worth' of all people

Alabama Gov. ousts top education official over book promoting 'equality, dignity, and worth' of all people
Republican Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, Image via Twitter

The state of Alabama's top early education official was forced out Friday by Gov. Kay Ivey over a teacher resource guide—one that promotes inclusion of various kinds of families and acknowledges the reality of racism in the nation's history—the Republican leader denounced as too "woke."

After an apparent refusal to denounce the book or accept its removal, Barbara Cooper, head of the Alabama Department of Early Education, was compelled to tender her resignation, which Ivey accepted.

The text in question is a widely-used resource guide for early childhood educators that informs teachers that the "early education system is not immune" from the forces of "systemic and institutional racism" embedded in the history and development of the United States.

The book, according to a review of its contents by the Associated Press, also urges inclusion and understanding for young children coming into education programs from all kinds of different families.

"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," states the resource guide.

A spokesperson for Ivey's office, Gina Maiola, identified the book as the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Developmentally Appropriate Practice Book, 4th edition and told reporters that copies of the text had been removed from all classrooms in the state.

Maiola said the book's glossary "includes equally disturbing concepts that the Ivey Administration and the people of Alabama in no way, shape or form believe should be used to influence school children, let alone four-year-olds."

The NAEYC, a national accrediting board that supplies materials and performs reviews for educational institutions and teachers nationwide, states on its website that the organization "promotes high-quality early learning for all children, birth through age 8, by connecting practice, policy, and research."

According to AP:

The book is a guide for early childhood educators. It is not a curriculum taught to children.

The governor's office, in a press release, cited two examples from the book—one discussing white privilege and that "the United States is built on systemic and structural racism" and another that Ivey's office claimed teaches LGBTQ+ inclusion to 4-year-olds. Those sections, according to a copy of the 881-page book obtained by The Associated Press, discuss combating bias and making sure that all children feel welcome.

On Friday evening, the NAEYC sent a statement to in response to the ouster of Cooper, who happens to sit on the group's national governing board, and about the resource guide itself.

"For nearly four decades, and in partnership with hundreds of thousands of families and educators, Developmentally Appropriate Practice has served as the foundation for high-quality early childhood education across all states and communities," NAEYC said in the statement.

"While not a curriculum, it 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 and reach their full potential," the group continued. "Building on the good work that is happening in states and communities, NAEYC looks forward to continuing its partnership with families, educators, and policymakers to further ourshared goals of offering joyful learning environments that see, support, and reflect all children and their families."

Megan Carolan, an early childhood researcher, responded to the story online by saying Cooper's ouster was "massively concerning and, I suspect it echoes what many teachers and districts have had to navigate locally."

"This book was a NAEYC-developed resource used as a guide, not curriculum," Carolan added. And while Alabama ranks poorly in public education performance overall, she remarked that the state "is commonly hailed as a success in early childhood education."

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