ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida will not allow its public high school students to enroll in a new Advanced Placement African American studies course because the state claims its content is “contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.”
The Florida Department of Education informed the College Board, which runs the AP program, of its decision in a Jan. 12 letter.
The letter did not detail how the course material violated state law. But in April Gov. Ron DeSantis signed what he dubbed his “stop woke” act, which banned “critical race theory” in public schools and what he called the theory’s “indoctrinating principles,” such as the idea that “a person, by virtue of his or her race, color, national origin, or sex is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive.”
Stanley Kurtz, a contributing editor at the National Review, first reported Florida’s decision on Wednesday, crediting DeSantis with what he called an “entirely justified” decision.
Kurtz previously wrote that he obtained a copy of the College Board’s “curriculum framework” for the still-being-developed African American studies course, and he trashed it as one that “clearly proselytizes for a socialist transformation of the United States.”
Kurtz also wrote in that September piece that the “course content does run afoul of the new state laws barring CRT” and to approve it “would be to gut those laws.”
The new African American studies course, whose curricula is not yet public, is now being run as a pilot in 60 high schools nationwide — including the Florida State University Schools’ high school — with the College Board planning to offer it at all interested schools in the 2024-25 school year.
“The interdisciplinary course draws from a variety of fields – literature, the arts and humanities, political science, geography, science – to explore the vital contributions and experiences of African Americans,” the College Board said in an unsigned emailed statement. “As with all AP courses in the humanities, it is not a theory course; students instead immerse themselves in primary sources.”
As in all AP courses, “students will encounter evidence, weigh competing viewpoints, and come to their own conclusions” about topics introduced, it said. “AP students are never required to agree with a particular opinion or adopt a particular ideology, but they are expected to analyze different perspectives,” it said.
The African American studies course, in the works for more than a decade, could undergo changes based on feedback from pilot schools as well as experts in the field, the College Board added, and once finalized its “course framework” will be made public.
“We look forward to bringing this rich and inspiring exploration of African-American history and culture to students across the country,” it added.
But for now Florida will not list the class in its “course code directory,” according to the unsigned letter sent to the College Board from the “Office of Articulation” at the education department. That means it will not be available to the state’s students.
“If the course comes into compliance and incorporates historically accurate content, the Department will reopen the discussion,” said Cassie Palelis, a department spokesperson, in an email.
Palelis did not immediately respond to follow-up questions requesting examples of the content that violates Florida law.
Critics of the state’s ban on CRT have called it an effort to prevent schools from addressing racism and its effect on America and from teaching history that doesn’t focus only on white people.
“The sterilization of American history by Gov Ron DeSantis,” tweeted Marvin Dunn, a retired Florida International University professor who has written books on African American history, about the course rejection.
Florida’s course directory currently lists African American history courses as options for high school students, though it is not a widely offered or taken class.
The FSU high school was piloting the new AP course, according to interviews a teacher gave to NPR and CBS News last summer when he attended a College Board teacher training at Howard University.
In the NPR interview on Aug. 28, Don Gonyea, a host of All Things Considered, asked teacher Marlon Williams-Clark about teaching the new class in light of DeSantis’ views and the new law.
“Well, the law is the law. And it’s not really my place to give my opinion on it, as far as when I’m dealing with the students. I let them know, point-blank, there may be some topics in which it is a thin line and that we’ll just have to be careful how we talk about some things and how we approach some subjects,” Williams Clark said. “I stick to the Florida state standards for African American history and other social studies standards that are integrated within the course, and that’s just the route we go.”
The AP African American studies course is not listed on the website of the FSU school, though an African American history course is.
Administrators with the school could not be immediately reached for comment.