By Rodrigo Villegas
In high school, students are able to take AP courses which allows for them to gain college credit and advanced studies on various topics. However, under the leadership of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Florida Department of Education rejected an Advanced Placement African American studies course earlier this month.
The department’s office of articulation informed the College Board—an American nonprofit organization that provides the AP programs––of this decision through a January 12 letter, stating that “the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.”
While Florida’s Education Department addressed the problem, they did not specify which law the course opposed, nor what about the course they considered unacceptable. This decision, and the general vagueness associated with it, has received criticism from many all over the country, including statements from other state legislators, labor unions, and high school students.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker—a Democrat—wrote in a letter addressed to the College Board that “One Governor should not have the power to dictate the facts of U.S. history.”
Furthermore, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, the second largest teacher’s labor union in America, tweeted, “AP courses are a pathway to help build critical thinking skills – to learn new information and apply it to life. How can Gov DeSantis erase all of Black history?”
As for me, I disagree with the decision to deny the course.
Gov. DeSantis has decided to focus on education and other social issues during his administration. Currently, his administration has enacted a series of laws—the “Stop WOKE Act”—that limit how race and gender are talked about in the classroom. Furthermore, it aims to prevent students from feeling guilty over the past actions of people of their race through material taught in classrooms.
Students should not feel remorse over the actions of their ancestors—that I do agree with. They are not responsible for what occurred during America’s history.
However, we should not shy away from these uncomfortable topics, because they are part of our country’s history. Gov. DeSantis’ decision to refuse the teaching of this AP course, and the Stop WOKE Act, gives the impression that he is attempting to erase parts of history.
In a press conference last Monday, Gov. DeSantis said, “We believe in teaching kids facts and how to think but we don’t believe they should have an agenda imposed on them.”
While I do agree that education should serve to provide students with the truth, rejecting this AP course is a step in the wrong direction. Instead of providing students with a complete history of events, movements, etc., certain parts of their history are intentionally excluded in order to avoid contentious topics or to not influence how a student thinks.
In my experience of taking AP courses, they are not designed to compel students to think a certain way or turn them into something they are not. The material is delivered to students and it is up to the student to decide how to use that knowledge and what to think of it.
In order to provide students with a thorough account of African American history, the course should be kept in schools as it will offer a different perspective than that of standard history classes.
After the rejection of the AP course from the Florida Department of Education, the College Board declared that it will be revising the course. With advice and suggestions from experts, teachers, and students, the College Board will publish a revised version on February 1.