Pictured is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
Nick Thompson | Contributing Writer
The Florida Department of Education rejected a new Advanced Placement course Jan. 12, blocking a class aimed at teaching African American studies in public high schools.
In a letter to the College Board— a national nonprofit that administers AP exams— the department defended their decision, stating that the content of the AP course was “contrary to Florida law” and that it “significantly lacks educational value.”
The ban by the FDOE comes on the heels of legislation that was signed into law by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis last spring. This was known as the “Stop WOKE Act” which restricted how racism could be taught in schools and restricted any forms of instruction that could make students feel guilty or responsible about actions that members of their own race committed in the past.
After the decision was announced, the College Board said that they would be revising the AP course’s curriculum and would release the new framework on Feb. 1— the first day of Black History Month. The College Board has not stated whether the ban itself was the reason for the revisions being made to the course.
In a statement to NPR, FDOE’s communications director Alex Lanfranconi said they [the College Board] welcomed the announcement of the revision.
“We are glad the College Board has recognized that the originally submitted course curriculum is problematic,” Lanfranconi said. “We are encouraged to see the College Board express a willingness to amend.”
The ban has received negative attention from many educators as well as Democratic politicians both in Florida and in Washington, D.C.
At a press conference in Tallahassee, Democratic state Rep. Fentrice Driskell said in regard to the ban that, “Ron DeSantis has clearly demonstrated that he wants to dictate whose history does and doesn’t belong.”
Meanwhile, Florida Education Association president Andrew Spar said in a statement, “Our schools don’t need to go back to 1950; we need to move forward toward 2050.”
According to UD associate professor Shannen Dee Williams, the fact that this latest installment in the culture war is happening in Florida specifically is something worth taking note of.
Referring to Florida as “the birthplace of Black and Catholic history” in the United States, Williams said, “This latest manufactured crisis and organized attack on the study of Black history, literature and culture by [DeSantis] underscores the dangerous precipice upon which our fragile democracy stands.”
Although both DeSantis and the FDOE state that the purpose of these laws is to try and prevent curriculums that could potentially guilt or indoctrinate students, Williams said there is no harm to be had in teaching students about African American studies.
“Black history is American history, and Black history is Catholic history,” she said. “Learning the truth about the American and human pasts cannot hurt us. Instead, it can only make us better and compel us to right the wrongs of the past in order to secure a just future.”