Florida rejects AP African American studies course : NPR

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Under the leadership of Governor Ron DeSantis, Florida enacted a large number of educational rules that limit teaching subjects including race, and sexual orientation.

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Octavio Jones/Getty Images

Under the leadership of Governor Ron DeSantis, Florida enacted a large number of educational rules that limit teaching subjects including race, and sexual orientation.

Octavio Jones/Getty Images

Florida Department of Education rejected an Advanced Placement course covering African American Studies – saying the class indoctrinates students for a “political agenda.”

“As submitted, the course is a vehicle for a political agenda and leaves large and ambiguous gaps that can be filled with additional ideological material, which we will not allow,” said Bryan Griffin, press secretary to Governor Ron DeSantis.

But scholars who were involved in the creation of the curriculum say that this is far from the truth.

“There is nothing particularly ideological about the course except that we appreciate the experiences of African people in the United States,” Christopher Tinson, the chair of the African American Studies department at Saint Louis University, said to NPR.

The course is the latest addition to the AP program, which helps high school students earn college credit. The class is currently going through a pilot phase. Sixty schools were participating in that trial, including at least one high school in Florida, but state officials disputed the possibility that the course would teach about Black Lives Matter and the reparations movement.

The state’s denial of the class comes as a wave of states try to censor the topics of race and sexual orientation in public schools.

DeSantis was particularly combative on this issue. In 2022, he signed the “Stop WOKE” Act, which – among other things – sets limits on how race can be taught in classrooms.

What’s in the course

The purpose of the class is to introduce students to the experiences and contributions of African Americans through a variety of lenses.

“We didn’t want to just focus on slavery, although slavery is part of it,” Tinson said. “We wanted to give a comprehensive view of culture, literature, historical development, political movements, social movements.”

Tinson said the course will explore the origins of the African diaspora to Reconstruction, the Harlem Renaissance, the Civil Rights movement, and then some. It will also examine similar historical trailblazers Valerie Thomasscientist who invented the illusion transmitter.

He is particularly excited for students to have a fuller grasp of the Haitian revolution, which Tinson argues tends to be underrepresented in history classes compared to the American and French revolutions despite being the most slave revolt of ‘success in the history of the world.

What is not in the course

Among the concerns Florida officials have raised is whether the course will teach critical race theory, the legal framework that argues racism is not just the product of individual prejudice, but is embedded in legal systems and policies.

“Florida has rejected an AP course filled with Critical Race Theory and other obvious violations of Florida law,” Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. he wrote on Twitter on Friday.

“We proudly require the teaching of African American history. We do not accept woke indoctrination masquerading as education,” he added.

But Tinson denied accusations that the theory would be taught in the course. While the class will explore the issue of inequality, the framework itself is too advanced for high school students even in a college-level course, according to Tinson.

Precedent set by other classes

African American Studies is not the first time the AP program has offered a class about the history and culture of a community. In fact, there are courses on European history, German history and culture, Chinese history and culture, and more.

As a result, there is a standard and format on how these curricula are shaped to serve the best interest of the students. The College Board told NPR that the African American studies course has been around for almost a decade.

“The reason why this is even an important field of study is because of the historical erasure from historical records in public schools of African experiences,” said Tinson. “This is a small step to resolve that gap.”

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