Ron Desantis Receives Backlash for Blocking AP African American Studies

Advanced Placement (AP) African American Studies was created by the College Board as a part of their broader AP program and has been in the works for several years. AP African American studies is an elective course that covers topics such as the history of slavery and the Civil Rights Movement, as well as literature, political science, and geography. The course aims to provide students with an understanding of the historical experiences of African Americans, and the ways in which they have shaped the culture and society of the United States. Currently, the College Board is piloting the course in 60 high schools across the nation. While they had originally looked to pilot the course in Floridan schools as well, their plans have not progressed as smoothly as expected. 

This past week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ administration blocked the introduction of AP African American Studies in Florida schools. The course was deemed by the Florida Department of Education as “lacking educational value” and in violation of Florida law. Additionally, Bryan Griffin, a spokesperson for Florida’s Republican governor Desantis said the course “leaves large, ambiguous gaps that can be filled with additional ideological material…If the College Board amends the course to comply, provides a full course curriculum, and incorporates historically accurate content, then the Department will reconsider the course for approval”(BBC).

What made this decision so controversial and incomprehensible was the fact that courses like AP European History and AP Art History are courses that are still allowed to be taught in Florida–courses that go into the historical contributions of white people in relation to the United States. Ron DeSantis’ rash dismissal of an AP African American Studies course is a gross dereliction of his duty to ensure education for all Floridians and shows his clear lack of disregard for the lives and experiences that form a major part of our national history.  Dismissing this important subject as lacking “educational value” defies centuries of evidence to the contrary. African American history is American history, and failure to comprehend this very simple fact is un-American in and of itself. 

Last year, Governor DeSantis passed the “Stop WOKE” act which restricts content surrounding race and gender in Florida schools. He stated: “In Florida, we are taking a stand against the state-sanctioned racism that is critical race theory,” citing the academic framework that denotes the existence of systemic racism in American society. It is likely that DeSantis believes the AP African American studies course teaches “critical race theory” despite one of the developers confirming to Time Magazine that the course only focuses on the culture, heritage, diversity, and resilience of the African American community rather than the ideas of “critical race theory” (BBC). African American history is not just about the oppression and discrimination faced by the community, but it also includes their contributions and achievements. By not teaching it, students are not exposed to the rich cultural heritage, diversity, and resilience of the African American community. Unfortunately, DeSantis’s decision reinforces the narrative that African Americans are not important and their experiences are not valuable. 

DeSantis’s decision should be a warning sign for all of us: the restriction of the AP African American Studies course is a way to silence the voices and experiences of African American people and to deny them the right to their own history and culture. The National Parents Union stated the ban was “dangerous and should concern every American” adding that they will challenge the decision (BBC). We must take action to stop those in power from oppressing and discriminating against the African American community by making our mark in education. The choice to fight is yours, but the future is ours.