Matthew Lewis. Unsplash.
In January, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said his administration was going to ban the course from the state’s schools, claiming it “significantly lacks educational value” and that it violated the Stop WOKE Act—legislation he signed into law last year restricting race and gender-related curriculum in schools. Republicans and other right-wing politicians quickly supported it.
“We proudly require the teaching of African American history. We do not accept woke indoctrination masquerading as education,” Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. wrote on Twitter when the ban was announced.
Although the governor claimed victory after the College Board released the new curriculum, the organization said in a statement that the major revisions were “substantially complete” by Dec. 22, 2022, several weeks before the governor and his administration banned the course.
The College Board further explained that it had not purged “Black feminism” and the “gay experience” from the course. But there are some significant differences between what appeared in the draft version and what is now part of the new version. Many progressive topics—like reparations, abolition, intersectionality and the queer experience, for example—have either been minimized or dropped from the 234-page document as a requirement for instructors teaching the class.
Black literary and academic figures like Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Sylvia Wynter, Nikki Giovanni, Amiri Baraka and more have also been removed from the new curriculum. Read it for yourself; you can access the pilot document here.
Critics see the updated curriculum as a blatant attempt to suppress African American studies in schools. Whether the changes were at the behest of DeSantis or not, there has been a surging right-wing effort to ban critical race theory in schools nationwide, despite school officials and educators denying they even teach the academic framework. Florida’s Department of Education may not have directly influenced the College Board, but the subjects removed from the AP African American studies curriculum appear to suggest it has been taking some cues from the culture war the GOP is waging.
And DeSantis has been crystal clear about his attempts to whitewash the state of Florida, recently touting his plans to defund diversity, equity and inclusion programs at every single Florida university.
“Everybody knows that what he’s doing is unfair. He’s blocking kids, white or Black, from learning more about African American history,” said a history teacher in Palm Beach County who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation. “You’re defeating the purpose of education. If students want to learn, whether you agree or disagree with it, that’s prohibiting our goal, which is to teach.”