Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is defending his administration’s decision to reject an Advanced Placement African American studies pilot program in Florida high schools after nationwide backlash.
Speaking at a press conference unveiling his 2023 education platform on Monday, DeSantis said the state wants “education, not indoctrination.”
“In the state of Florida, our education standards not only don’t prevent but they require teaching Black history, all the important things. That’s part of our core curriculum,” DeSantis said.
“This was a separate course on top of that for Advanced Placement credit and the issue is we have guidelines and standards in Florida,” he continued. “We want education, not indoctrination. If you fall on the side of indoctrination, we’re going to decline. If it’s education, then we will do.”
DeSantis said when he first heard the course didn’t meet standards, he thought the course must be teaching critical race theory — an academic theory that argues systemic racism is ingrained in the U.S. that DeSantis has, in the past, called “a bunch of horse manure.”
Upon reading the course description, DeSantis said, he saw “it’s way more than that.”
“What’s one of the lessons about? Queer theory,” said DeSantis. “Now, who would say that an important part of Black history is queer theory? That is somebody pushing an agenda on our kids. And so when you look to see they have stuff about intersectionality, abolishing prisons, that’s a political agenda. And so we’re on — that’s the wrong side of the line for Florida standards. We believe in teaching kids facts and how to think, but we don’t believe they should have an agenda imposed on them. When you try to use Black history to shoehorn in queer theory, you are clearly trying to use that for political purposes.”
DeSantis’s administration sent a letter to the College Board on Jan. 12 rejecting the new A.P. African American Studies course, stating “the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.”
In a statement to The Hill last week, DeSantis’s office identified the Department of Education’s key concerns with the course included the topics of intersectionality, Black Queer Studies, the Black Lives Matter movement, Black Feminist Literary Thought, the reparations movement and the Black Study and Black Struggle in the 21st Century.
Key readings by Kimberlé Crenshaw, the “founder” of intersectionality, Angela Davis, a “self-avowed Communist and Marxist,” Roderick Ferguson, Leslie Kay Jones, bell hooks and Robin D.G. Kelly also were reportedly cause for concern.
DeSantis’s decision has caused outrage from Democrats around the country. On Friday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called the decision “incomprehensible.”
“If you think about the study of Black Americans, that is what he wants to block,” Jean-Pierre said. “These types of actions aren’t new. They are not new from what we’re seeing, especially from Florida. Sadly, Florida currently bans teachers from talking about who they are and who they love.”
“They didn’t block AP European history. They didn’t block our music history. They didn’t block our art history. But the state chooses to block a course that is meant for high achieving high school students to learn about their history of arts and culture. It is incomprehensible,” she continued.