Florida Rejects AP African-American Studies Course—Here’s What It Actually Teaches

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Topline

Florida has drawn widespread controversy for rejecting an AP African-American Studies course that Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and his administration claims “lacks an educational purpose” and pushes a “political agenda,” though the topics the state has objected to make up only a very small portion of the course’s full curriculum spanning African-American history and culture.

Key Facts

The AP course was designed by about 20 college professors across the country to give a comprehensive overview of African American culture and history, according to one of the professors involved, and is now being piloted at schools before launching nationwide.

The AP course will focus on Black communities in the U.S. but put them in the context of the broader African diaspora, according to a copy of the curriculum made public by NBC News.

The course has four major units: history of the African diaspora, the period of slavery and abolition in the U.S., African American experiences since slavery was abolished, and various Black movements and debates including feminism, Black Power, and the Civil Rights movement, along with African American experiences today.

Within those four units, there are 102 smaller sub-topics that cover history, culture, and concepts like cultural appropriation and “postracial racism,” including Juneteenth, the Harlem Renaissance, literature, music, military service and Black suffrage.

The Florida Department of Education said the state’s rejection of the course was based on six of those sub-topics: Intersectionality and Activism; Black Queer Studies; Movements for Black Lives; Black Feminist Literary Thought; the Reparations Movement and Black Study and Black Struggle in the 21st Century.

It cited such concerns as “intersectionality being central to [Critical Race Theory],” course materials advocating for reparations and abolishing prisons, and readings by such thinkers as Bell Hooks, who the state complained authored “intersectionality texts” and wrote about the “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.”

Contra

Florida cited Critical Race Theory as a reason for rejecting the AP class, after the state banned the concept from being taught in schools. Tinson told NPR there isn’t any actual Critical Race Theory being taught in the AP course, however, noting the framework of the theory is “too advanced for high school students even in a college-level course.”

Crucial Quote

“The purpose [of the course] is not to indoctrinate [students] or guide them in some kind of political philosophy,” Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, a professor of African American Studies at Harvard University who advised on the course’s creation, told the Washington Post in December. “The story is so much more complex than simply White people versus Black people.”

Surprising Fact

Florida’s rejection of the course comes despite the fact that the state legally requires schools to teach African-American history. A statute in state law mandates African-American studies and history be taught in order to help students “develop an understanding of the ramifications of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping on individual freedoms.” The statute does say the instruction “may not be used to indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view” that goes against “state academic standards,” as the state claims that the AP course does.

What To Watch For

AP African-American Studies is now being piloted in approximately 60 high schools across the country, the Post reports, and will be available for any high school to offer starting in the 2024-2025 school year.

Key Background

Florida officials confirmed last week they had rejected the AP African-American Studies course, with the state’s Education Department claiming the course “lacks educational value and historical accuracy.” The move has since become a national controversy, with White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre saying the Biden Administration found the move “incomprehensible” and “concerning” and faith leaders and civil rights leaders in Florida mounting a statewide response in opposition. DeSantis doubled down on the state’s opposition to the course in a press conference on Monday, claiming the curriculum was pushing a “political agenda” and pointing to its studies in “queer theory” and “intersectionality” to defend the move. The course’s rejection is part of a broader array of controversial efforts that DeSantis and his administration have imposed in order to push more right-wing policies in Florida education and prohibit supposedly “woke” ideologies, such as enacting legislation restricting LGBTQ issues and teaching that makes students feel like they bear “personal responsibility” for historic discrimination, and imposing restrictions on what materials classroom libraries can carry.

Further Reading

DeSantis Defends Florida Rejecting AP African-American Studies Course (Forbes)

Rejecting AP Studies, Restricting Libraries: Here’s How DeSantis And His ‘Anti-Woke’ Policies Are Impacting Florida Education (Forbes)

Here’s what’s in the AP African American Studies course rejected by Florida (NBC News)

Florida says AP class teaches critical race theory. Here’s what’s really in the course (NPR)

Teens embrace AP class featuring Black history, a subject under attack (Washington Post)

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