DeSantis Defends Banning AP African American Studies Course From Florida High Schools

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called the course indoctrination and said it violates the state's Stop WOKE Act, which seeks to limit discussions on race, gender, and sexuality in classrooms.
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  • The College Board has been developing its Advanced Placement course on African American Studies for 10 years.
  • The Florida Department of Education rejected the course, saying it violated state law and and significantly lacks educational value.
  • DeSantis defended the decision Monday, citing the course's teachings on queer theory and intersectionality as political and violating state law.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' war on woke ideology reached deeper into classrooms this month when his administration blocked a new College Board Advanced Placement (AP) course on African American Studies from being taught in the state's public high schools.

In a brief letter notifying the College Board of Florida's decision, officials said the course violated state law and significantly lacks educational value.

DeSantis on Monday defended his administration's decision after news of the move sparked a weekend of nationwide backlash.

Speaking at a press conference in a charter school classroom in Jacksonville, the governor said Florida wants education, not indoctrination, and claimed the course violates the state's Stop WOKE Act.

Last April, DeSantis signed the Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees (Stop WOKE) Act, which limits what is taught in K-12 and higher education classrooms, mainly by neutralizing conversations with topics such as race, gender, and sexuality.

DeSantis on Monday was particularly critical of the course's inclusion of queer theory and intersectionality.

Who would say that an important part of Black history is queer theory? he asked. That is somebody pushing an agenda on our kids. So when you look to see they have stuff about intersectionality, abolishing prisons, that's a political agenda.

When you use Black history to try to shoehorn in queer theory, you are clearly trying to use that for political purposes.

Florida's issues with the course go beyond what DeSantis highlighted Monday, however.

Late Friday, Manny Diaz, Florida's commissioner of education, tweeted a chart outlining the state's grievances.

We proudly require the teaching of African American history. We do not accept woke indoctrination masquerading as education, Diaz said.

The state took issue with parts of the proposed syllabus, including: Intersectionality, Black Queer Studies, the Black Lives Matter movement, Black Feminist Literary Thought, the Reparations Movement, and Black Study and Black Struggle in the 21st Century.

High school students can choose to take AP courses and then tests in those topics to earn college credit or to place into higher-level classes when in college. There are currently 38 different AP courses covering seven different subject areas available for students — from AP Environmental Science to AP Japanese Language and Culture.

The College Board has been developing AP African American Studies for more than a decade and hopes to make it available to all schools in the 2024-25 school year. The first exams will be administered in the spring of 2025.

According to the College Board, AP African American Studies reaches into a variety of fields — literature, the arts and humanities, political science, geography, and science — to explore the vital contributions and experiences of African Americans.

So far, more than 200 colleges and universities have committed to recognizing the course for college credit, according to the College Board. The organization is encouraging even more higher education institutions to support the launch of this important course.

While the DeSantis administration has sought in the last year to restrict how educators can teach topics such as race, Florida also has a law requiring schools to teach African American history. But the governor's view of African American history is clearly at odds with that of the College Board's experts.

I view it as American history, DeSantis said Monday of African American history. I don't view it as a separate history. We have history in a lot of different shapes and sizes; people who have participated to make the country great, people who have stood up when it wasn't easy, and they all deserve to be taught.