Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration has blocked an Advanced Placement course on African American studies from being taught in Florida high schools.
If you have been following education news over the last couple of years then you probably could have guessed this. Rejection of race-related curriculum under the umbrella of “critical-race-theory” has been a rallying cry for conservatives since 2020. This is especially true for the state of Florida and its Governor Ron DeSantis. He has even codified this campaign into law with his Stop W.O.K.E Act.
However, this latest stunt in Florida is actually a milestone because it shows they are no longer even pretending this is about education. Normally when someone has an issue with curriculum they explain what that issue is. For example: I once omitted a section of a text book I was given to teach because it framed the Civil War in “Lost Cause” ideology. I explained that to my principal, found replacement resources and used the text book for the rest because it was mostly accurate. But in the case of Florida rejecting an entire AP course we got this instead:
“As presented, the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value. In the future, should College Board be willing to come back to the table with lawful, historically accurate content, FDOE will always be willing to reopen the discussion.”
That was from a letter the Florida Department of Education sent to College Board to explain why they were prohibiting the course from being taught in Florida schools. Notice it contains no actual examples of inaccurate or even objectionable material. It doesn’t even elaborate on the curriculum’s problems in general. It just says that the course is illegal, inaccurate, and prohibited in Florida.
This has national implications as well. Florida, along with Texas, frequently serve as the spawning point for laws and initiatives that make their way to other red states.
The ambiguous nature of the ban makes it abundantly clear this is not an education or history related decision. It doesn’t even appear to be policy related as even the Stop W.O.K.E. Act preaches “understanding and respecting other viewpoints and backgrounds.” Instead, this was a partisan move. It is a transparent appeal to people who think a class on African Americans is inherently divisive or problematic.
Advanced Placement classes are essentially densely packed college courses offered to high school students. There is enough information that perhaps there may be room for a nuanced conversation around any inaccuracies or “divisive concepts”… since there is unfortunately a law around this in Florida. However, since the Florida department of education didn’t include any context for their decision, we can only infer that the course itself is problematic in their eyes. This is an odd stance to take considering that Advanced Placement courses that are based on the study of other groups like European History have not been challenged by Florida’s current leadership.
The message this sends is that African Americans and their history are not significant enough to be worthy of a specialized course of study… at least not in Florida.