Politicizing education: Florida’s controversy (EDITORIAL)
March 9, 2023
On January 12, Governor Ron DeSantis’s administration sent a letter to the College Board stating that the proposed AP African American Studies course lacks educational value and would be outlawed in Florida. Following this controversy, the College Board released the curriculum for this new course – notably lacking the topics and subjects that were initially deemed reprehensible.
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The issue many like-minded Floridians have with this AP class is the fact that it teaches Critical Race Theory, a sentiment shared by those in support of the Stop Woke Act. However, these classes do not teach Critical Race Theory as C.R.T. is a graduate-level course that could not be taught to teenagers through these classes. The phrase is constantly thrown into these discussions to strike fear into the hearts of parents and build up dissent for these classes. In reality, AP African American Studies teaches the origins of the African diaspora, Reconstruction, the Harlem Renaissance, the Civil Rights movement, historical figures, the Haitian Revolution, Black Lives Matter, and the reparations movement. However, this was just the preliminary course material and on February 1, the College Board released the official curriculum. Despite denying any influence due to political controversy, the Board reassigned many of the more controversial topics as optional sources for an end-of-year project.
This is not the first time Governor DeSantis has played a hand in vastly construing what is taught in Florida schools. In 2022, he signed the “Stop Woke Act” which was written to prevent teaching about race relations in a way that attributes privilege or oppression to race, color, national origin, or sex. He also signed the Florida Parental Rights in Education, or “Don’t Say Gay,” Act which prohibits teachings about sexual orientation and gender identity to students in kindergarten through third grade. More recently, DeSantis has targeted the New College of Florida – one of the state’s very few public liberal arts colleges – due to its “wokeness.” To combat this alleged predicament, he has appointed 6 new members to the board in an effort to realign the school’s values.
NEW: Ron DeSantis Republicans are pushing to EXPAND #DontSayGay by censoring and excluding LGBTQ people thru 8th grade, even in charter schools.
They also want government regulation of pronouns.
— Carlos Guillermo Smith (@CarlosGSmith) February 28, 2023
An element that lies at the center of this issue is the feelings of white students. Parents and politicians alike express deep concern that white students will “feel bad” if they are taught the roles other white people played in the oppression of others. This has no relevance to the conversations at hand. These classes do not shame white students for actions from the past so there would be no guilt to be felt as they are not the people in the history books. Also, this blatantly prioritizes their feelings over proper education of Black history. Every history class teaches in depth about the successes and failures of white people throughout history but does not allow Black students to learn that their ancestors were so much more than slaves.
“As someone who has taken many AP history classes, I am alarmed by this proposed legislation. I think that my education experience at Academy was enhanced by the advanced history courses I took and I worry that Florida students are missing out on an enriching academic experience,” said Avery Rogan (‘23).
An integral factor in this issue that no one mentions is that AP African American Studies is a course that appeals to a niche subset of students. Most AP classes are not required and while some classes are often taken in sequence or in the place of another class, AP African American Studies would not be one of these classes. Enrollment in this class would entirely depend on a student’s interest in the course material making the notion that this class would force-feed students CRT simply untrue. Moreover, this is not a topic mandatory for a student’s education meaning that there would be no academic repercussions for not taking this class. However, the subject is one that is critical to better understanding the effects our country’s history has on modern-day issues – a benefit that many interested Florida students will not have access to.