Politics

Florida ‘proudly’ teaches African-American history, official says as he defends rejecting AP course

By Sharon Bernstein

(Reuters) – Florida’s education chief on Friday defended the state’s rejection of a proposed Advanced Placement course in African American Studies, saying public schools already teach racism and slavery while cracking down on “vigilante indoctrination.”

The rejection of the course was the latest in a series of actions by conservative Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration on topics that strike a nerve in the nation’s culture wars, including banning some educational efforts regarding racism, slavery and LGBTQ rights. DeSantis is widely expected to seek his party’s nomination for president in 2024.

“We demand proud teaching of African American history,” Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr. wrote. on Twitter. “We do not accept vigilante indoctrination masquerading as education.”

The program, which is in the pilot stage, was developed by the College Board, a non-profit that administers Advanced Placement tests that help high school students earn college credit.

Florida is one of several states that have banned public schools from teaching “Critical Race Theory,” an academic framework that teaches that racism goes beyond individual prejudice and “is embedded in laws, policies, and institutions that maintain and reproduces racial inequalities,” according to the NAACP.

On Jan. 12, Florida sent a letter to the College Board saying the AP course violated Florida law and lacked educational value.

The White House on Friday condemned the move, and spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre called the rejection of the course “incomprehensible.” She noted that Florida did not ban AP courses on European history and said the action was a departure from previous moves by DeSantis, including bans on teaching young children about LGBTQ issues.

Diaz called the White House’s comments “lies” and released a chart showing the state’s objections to the course.

Among the concerns were readings on intersectionality, the idea that discrimination can affect an individual in multiple ways if people are members of more than one marginalized group, a section on Black Queer Studies, a discussion on Black feminism, and a topic called Movements for Black Ought to. A section on whether the United States should pay reparations to descendants of slaves does not argue against the idea, the chart says. It rejects a reading of 1960s radical Angela Davis, whom it called a “self-proclaimed” communist.

“As presented, the course is a vehicle for a political agenda and leaves large, ambiguous gaps that can be filled with additional ideological material,” DeSantis’ spokesman, Bryan Griffin, said in a statement to Reuters. “As Governor DeSantis has stated, our classrooms will be a place of education, not indoctrination.”

If the course is changed to meet Florida standards and comply with its laws, the state will reconsider, Griffin and Diaz said.

The College Board did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters on Friday. But on Thursday, it said in a statement to Reuters that the course aims to “explore the vital contributions and experiences of African Americans.” It is a humanities course and as such does not teach theory, the statement states.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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