Why DeSantis now wants to ban AP African-American Studies from schools

The Florida governor's administration believes the course veers into critical race theory in violation of Florida’s controversial Stop WOKE Act, according to a report.

Apparently, rejecting a new AP African-American Studies class jibes with celebrating Martin Luther King Day for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Just days before DeSantis took to social media to praise the civil rights leader’s legacy, his administration reportedly barred AP African-American Studies from being offered in Florida classrooms even as it’s being piloted in dozens of U.S. high schools.

The College Board says it spent about a decade working with higher ed and K12 experts on the development of the AP African-American Studies. It is offered in about 60 schools—one of which appears to be in Florida’s state capitol—and will expand to hundreds more by 2024. The course explores the crucial contributions and experiences of African Americans across a variety of fields—including literature, the arts, political science, geography, and science—to sharpen students’ knowledge about the United States and democracy, the College Board says.

But late last week, officials in the Florida Department of Education notified the College Board that it had rejected AP African-American Studies because it “lacks educational value,” the National Review reported. DeSantis’ administration also believes the course veers into critical race theory in violation of Florida’s controversial Stop WOKE Act, according to the National Review.

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“In the future, should the College Board be willing to come back to the table with lawful, historically accurate content, FDOE will always be willing to reopen the discussion,” the Florida Department of Education told the College Board in a letter obtained by the National Review. Coincidently or not, the agency this week touted in a press release that “Florida college system presidents reject ‘woke’ diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), critical race theory ideologies and embrace academic freedom.”

AP African-American Studies should be ready for all schools to adopt in the fall of 2024, with the first exams offered in 2025. More than 200 colleges and universities have so far committed to offering student credit for taking AP African American Studies, the College Board says.

One place where the course has been piloted is right in DeSantis’ backyard, at a Tallahassee laboratory high school operated by Florida State University’s school of education. The teacher, Marlon Williams-Clark, told NPR last year that adding AP to the African American history class at Florida State University Schools gave the course more legitimacy and energized students.

“On the first day, I said, I cannot offer you a safe space, because, quite honestly, some things that we will talk about in this course could trigger someone, and I wouldn’t know that,” Willaims Clark told NPR. “So I can’t offer you a safe space, but I can offer you a brave space—brave to indulge, brave to ask questions, brave to be curious.”

Another teacher piloting the course is Nelva Williamson at Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy, which is part of Houston ISD in Texas. Williamson told Edutopia that the course is resonating deeply with her students as they examine documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution through the eyes of both enslaved people and free African Americans.

“We’re not retelling the story,” she said in the Edutopia interview. “We’re adding to it. Adding another layer of depth.”

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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