Controversy Arises as Florida Bans AP African American History Course

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the 2021 Student Action Summit in Tampa. Photo Credit: "Gage Skidmore" on Flickr (Creative Commons License)

By Contributing Writer Ben Falasco (’24)

The attention of the educational world is currently on Florida, specifically Governor Ron DeSantis (R), as Florida’s Department of Education rejected an Advanced Placement course that focused on African American History and Studies. The class will not be allowed to be taught in Florida schools unless significant revisions are made to the curriculum. DeSantis has received considerable backlash and criticism that could lead to a potential lawsuit.

DeSantis and his administration claim that the course does not teach what it claims to, and lacks an educational purpose. The reason is that there are a number of topics that conflict with Florida’s laws, such as intersectionality and activism that are considered foundational ideas for Critical Race Theory (CRT), which is illegal in the state. DeSantis argues that the state of Florida’s educational standards do not prevent the teaching of Black history. He claims that the AP African American History course is unnecessary for students who want to learn about Black history, and he has stated that Florida wants “education, not indoctrination.”  If a class falls on the side of indoctrination, the state of Florida will decline it. DeSantis says that one of the lessons of this proposed African American History course is about Queer Theory. He claims that Queer Theory is not an important part of Black history. DeSantis says that the theory is “pushing an agenda on our kids, and [is on] the wrong side of the line in regards to Florida standards.” The bottom line is that DeSantis says the course violates Florida law and is historically inaccurate.

Last April, the Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees (Stop WOKE) Act was signed by DeSantis. The law limits the teaching of grades K-12 by preventing conversations on topics such as race, gender, and sexuality in classrooms. Following this decision by Florida, states like Virginia, Mississippi, North Dakota, and Arkansas are reviewing the course’s content, and are looking to follow in DeSantis’s footsteps.

The Florida Department of Education released a letter recently that addressed the communications from the College Board regarding the content of the course, going back to January 2022. The letter states that Florida was in frequent contact with the College Board about the course. The College Board denied this, saying that the phone calls attempting to engage with Florida on its concerns did not focus on specific concerns about the course.

The dispute that is currently going on between the College Board, DeSantis, and the country as a whole is a part of the Republican government’s attempt to create what he describes as a “more traditional” K-12 education system. Under DeSantis, Florida has previously banned laws that deal with Critical Race Theory and the discussion of sex and gender in elementary schools. 

The College Board asserts that it repeatedly pushed the Florida Department of Education to send concerns for the course, but it received none. The organization hopes to unban the class from Florida and introduce the AP African American history course to high schools across the country.

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