AP African American Studies: unnecessary controversy

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In the past few months, there’s been a great deal of controversy relating to the creation of a new Advanced Placement class. AP African American studies, which College Board is currently piloting, has emphasized a division between educational scholars and fear-mongering conservatives. This highly-anticipated course takes an interdisciplinary approach, emphasizing areas such as arts, literature, and science. College Board plans to make the course available everywhere for the 2024-2025 school year, but there is a politically-motivated opposition challenging this.

Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis has been the most vocal about his opposition to College Board’s introduction of the new AP African American Studies class. He accused College Board of trying to push their “woke” political agenda forward. On Jan. 12, Florida’s Department of Education rejected College Board’s pilot version of AP African American Studies. This decision was made with DeSantis' “Stop WOKE” law in mind. With jargon like “Education, not indoctrination,” DeSantis is attacking programs that support diversity, equity, and inclusion. His true goal is to use scare tactics to appeal to his racist base with buzz words like “woke” and “critical race theory,” while erasing part of our American history.

Not only is rejecting this AP course a disservice to students, it also contradicts a previous state-issued mandate in 1994 which stated that students must be taught about African American history. With this in mind, it seems that DeSantis is letting his own radical ideas interfere with students' education.

Even disregarding this mandate, DeSantis is being completely unreasonable. Because of the nature of Advanced Placement classes, students get to choose which, if any, to take. Accordingly, even conservatives who believe students shouldn’t have to learn about African American history shouldn't have a problem with this new optional curriculum. But they do have a problem with it. Instead of giving students a choice, radical conservatives would rather deprive everyone of our history.

In response to DeSantis’ opposition, College Board altered the curriculum of the new course in attempts to satisfy conservatives. They limited mentioning the Black Lives Matter movement, Critical Race Theory, the Black queer experience, and Black feminism. They also decided to include Black conservatism. But even this watered-down version didn’t appease DeSantis.

In a rare statement last week, College Board expressed regret that they didn’t immediately denounce the slander by DeSantis and the Florida Department of Education (FDOE).

“Our failure to raise our voice betrayed Black scholars everywhere and those who have long toiled to build this remarkable field,” the College Board statement said. “We have made the mistake of treating FDOE with the courtesy we always accord to an education agency, but they have instead exploited this courtesy for their political agenda.”

DeSantis’ opposition to AP African American Studies is just one of many frightening policies attacking Florida’s education at every level. From DeSantis' “Don’t Say Gay” bill to the President of New College of Florida being ousted by an ultra-conservative board, this is not an isolated event. DeSantis is waging a calculated war on Florida schools that should concern all Americans. As a potential Republican frontrunner for the 2024 presidential race, DeSantis aims to bring his policies nationwide which could lead to dire consequences for all of our schools.