By Ethan Montague
Over the past few weeks, Florida has dominated headlines after the DeSantis administration banned an Advanced Placement (AP) course titled “African American Studies” for including what they called “indoctrination and identity politics.”
“We want education, not indoctrination. If you fall on the side of indoctrination, we’re going to decline…,” said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. “This is a course on black history-[and] what’s one of the lessons about? Queer theory. Now who would say that an important part of black history is queer theory?”
He also stated that this course could be used “as a gateway for indoctrination and a political agenda.”
The course includes a chapter on both Queer studies and the Reparations movement, which seeks to pay African Americans for enslavement and discrimination. The course also claims there are white supremacist superstructures that oppress us.
The College Board has since announced plans to review the course, while State Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz Jr. stated that the course will be allowed back in schools once College Board revises its course to comply with Florida law.
Immediately after the decision, the Republican Governor’s administration was faced with a barrage of negative media coverage, with complaints from civil rights activists and liberal politicians. Democrat Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker denounced the decision saying “One Governor should not have the power to dictate the facts of U.S. history.”
Pritzker also vowed to reject any changes to the course, believing Florida to be unfairly affecting other states’ school curriculum since AP curriculum is the same in every state.
This means if the College Board were to change the course, the changes would be the same in both Florida and Illinois.
But if the College Board does not change the course, Illinois could still include it in its curriculum despite it remaining in violation of Florida law. Both Pritzker and DeSantis are widely believed to be considering a run for president in 2024.
Ben Crump, a civil rights attorney known for representing Jacob Blake and George Floyd, is moving to file a lawsuit over the removal of the course. He has yet to announce specifics of the case other than that three students will be suing the state. He claimed the lawsuit will be historic.
Others have filed petitions demanding the state Department of Education approve the course. One petition has over 34,000 signatures, claiming “Gov. DeSantis has been using Black students as political pawns.”
The Florida Department of Education rejected these claims stating, “the study of African American history is not only permitted in Florida but required by law. In fact, the teaching of African American history has been expanded in Florida since Governor Ron DeSantis took office.”
Education reform has been a major part of the Governor’s agenda since taking office and there have been a few important bills related to public school guidelines and curriculum. The most well known is the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, labeled “Don’t Say Gay” by critics, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.
The Stop Woke Act is also currently being pursued by the administration and prohibits treating individuals differently on behalf of their race.
State Senator Shevrin Jones was not happy about any of these laws, saying Florida is where you “Don’t Say Black,” showing his disapproval with both this course removal as well as the “Parental Rights in Education” bill.
These bills are part of a broader political “culture war” in which Republicans and Democrats have become increasingly divided over how children should be taught about the history of slavery and racism as well as sexual orientation and gender identity.