State Sen. Shevrin Jones slams Florida ban on AP African American studies class : NPR

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“People across the country should be concerned that legislators and governors across the country are going to do exactly what Florida is doing,” says Florida Senator Shevrin Jones, pictured here in March 2022.

Wilfredo Lee/AP


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Wilfredo Lee/AP

“People across the country should be concerned that legislators and governors across the country are going to do exactly what Florida is doing,” says Florida Senator Shevrin Jones, pictured here in March 2022.

Wilfredo Lee/AP

Florida’s education department has blocked a proposed Advanced Placement course focused on African American studies, calling it a form of political indoctrination and a violation of state law.

the College Board has been developing the classroom for more than a decade and is currently piloting it in 60 schools across the United States, while planning to make it available to all schools in the 2024-2025 school year. (High school students can choose to take AP classes to earn college credit or enroll in higher-level college classes.)

The course aims to explore the experiences and contributions of African Americans through various lenses, from the African diaspora to the Civil Rights movement and beyond, one of the scholars behind the -his curriculum.

But Florida officials disputed the curriculum, which Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. called “indoctrination masquerading as education.” He tweeted out list of topics of concern, including intersectionality and activism, Black queer studies, Black lives movements and the reparations movement.

“As we have said all along, if the College Board decides to revise its course to comply with Florida law, we will return to the table,” Diaz added.

Florida is one of many states seeks to restrict how teachers can talk about topics such as race, sexual orientation and gender identity. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis — who is expected to run for president in 2024 — has taken measures to exert more control over schools and reshape education in his state, including signing a two restrictive bills in the past year.

The “Stop WOKE” Act limits how race can be taught in classrooms, and allows parents to sue teachers and districts that violate it. The Parents’ Rights in Education Act, dubbed by critics as “Don’t Say Gay,” prohibits discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity through third grade and sets limits on the instruction after that point.

But Florida also has a law that requires schools to teach Black history, as Miami-Dade County School Board member Steve Gallon III told NPR’s All Things Considered at the end of -week, while pointing out the inconsistency.

Critics, including the Florida branches of the NAACP and ACLUargued that banning the course is detrimental not only to Black Floridians but to all children seeking a comprehensive education in the state.

And it should raise alarm bells even beyond Florida’s borders, says state Sen. Shevrin Jones, a Democrat who represents part of Miami-Dade County. He said Morning Editionof Steve Inskeep that Florida is “just the testing ground.”

“People across the country should be concerned that legislators and governors across the country are going to do exactly what Florida is doing,” he said. “And we have the potential to raise an entire generation of Black children who will not be able to see themselves represented in their own state or in education.”

And, Jones added, this move offers insight into “the tone and tenor of what Ron DeSantis’ possible run for president will be.”

Here are some other worries about the decision, and the impact he fears it will have on students.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Interview highlights

On what the class is supposed to accomplish

This was actually a pilot program that had come down from the College Board that 60 other school districts had already piloted. And in fact there were teachers here within the state of Florida who have already reached out to me to let me know that they were part of the planning committee and they were excited about what was coming. It was not indoctrination, it was not ideology, it was facts that were in this curriculum that Governor DeSantis made it clear that, “You know, what we are not going to teach that here in the state of Florida until you all go back and remove some of the woke ideology you’re pushing.”

On the course subjects concerning state officials

Some of the things they were talking about in it were talking about the Black struggle, he was talking about the Black Lives Matter movement, he was talking about black queerness … These are not issues that we should stay away from, either we welcome away from the students. These are stories in [the] a story of American history that we should be embracing, and we should be making sure that the kids understand that — and especially considering the fact that we offer European history, we offer Spanish history, we offer art history. They are all part of the story that we should not be taking our children to class.

About the importance of learning different views

As we look at AP courses and the level of students taking these courses, it is college level classes that [are] exploratory. We send our children to school to learn. Teachers are not in the classroom indoctrinating or telling children how they should feel based on others and what they have done in history… When we start banning books by individuals like Angela Davis, when we start banning books like Letter from Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, those writers were writing from their perspective, from their time, from that moment in history.

On what African American studies classes can be seen in Florida

I think you will start to see many communities start teaching African American history to children on their own. And the very fact that we are arguing that African American AP studies violate state law, only goes to highlight how vague last year’s Stop WOKE Act is, and the danger it poses for the future of education within the state. This decision totally shows how willing this administration is to strengthen policies under the guise of individual freedom, when in fact we are removing the rights of our students and, in truth, of their parents .

On what the parents are saying

Just yesterday a group of parents, Black parents, made it clear that they will come to Tallahassee on Wednesday because they want to be part of this fight, to make sure that our history is taught, that it is factual and that the students have the same. an experience that every child should have and learn about the history of this country and what happened around this world.

The audio for this interview was produced by Mansee Khurana and edited by Olivia Hampton.

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