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Why Did Florida Reject AP African American Studies Course?

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AP African American course, Florida governor bans course, DeSantis rejects course

Florida governor Ron DeSantis is back in the headlines yet again, this time for rejecting an advanced placement African American Studies course. His administration claims the course “lacks an educational purpose and it pushes a “political agenda,” but what actually is in the course?

The AP African American Studies that has been rejected by the Florida governor was designed by 20 college professors across the country. Its goal is to give a comprehensive overview of African American history and examine current issues in the community. The course is being piloted at about 60 high schools before a nationwide launch in 2024-2025 school year. 

The course has four major parts: history of the African diaspora, slavery and abolition in the U.S., the African American experiences since slavery was abolished, and various Black movements and debates such as the Civil Rights movement along with the experiences of African Americans today. 

There are several sub topics within those four major topics. The Florida Department of Education stated that the state’s rejection of the course is based on six sub-topics; Black Queer Studies, Intersectionality and Activism, Movements of Black Lives, Black Feminist Literary Thought, the Reparations Movement, and Black Study and Black Struggle in the 21st Century. 

The state is concerned that AP class is pretty much Critical Race Theory in a new form, a teaching Florida banned from being taught in schools. The education department believes  the course material advocates for reparations, abolishing prisons, and is influenced by thinkers that are pretty much anti-American. 

Defenders of the course, like Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, a professor of African American Studies at Harvard university, who advised on the course’s creation, fights back against critics saying the purpose of the course is not to guide students into a specific political philosophy. 

One interesting fact is that the state of Florida legally requires schools to teach African American history.The law states history should be thought to help students “develop an understanding of the ramifications of prejudice, racism and stereotyping on individual freedoms.” It goes on to say that no teaching should be used to indoctrinate or persuade students into a particular point of view that goes against Florida’s academic standards. And the state argues that this specific AP course does just that. 

Critics of DeSantis’s move, like civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump and Black Democratic state lawmaker, are pushing back against the state’s decision, claiming the rejection is an attempt to whitewash history. Crump is threatening to sue the state if students are banned from taking the course. 

The College Board, an organization responsible for administering standardized tests like the SATs, spent a decade developing the course. However,  the organization has signaled it will release an updated framework for the controversial course after Florida rejected it. What topics will be scrapped or kept in the course is not clear.