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 the public schools already teach about racism and slavery, while lashing out at “awakened indoctrination”.
The course’s rejection was the latest in a series of actions by the administration of conservative Republican Governor Ron DeSantis over issues that strike a chord in the country’s culture wars, including the banning of some educational efforts related to racism, slavery and LGBTQ rights. DeSantis is widely expected to pursue his party’s nomination for president in 2024.
“We proudly need the teaching of African American history,” Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr. posted. on Twitter. “We don’t accept waking indoctrination masquerading as education.”
The program, which is in its pilot phase, was developed by the College Board, a nonprofit organization that administers Advanced Placement tests that help high school students earn college credit.
Florida is one of the states that has 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 perpetuate and reproduce racial inequalities ‘, according to the NAACP.
On January 12, Florida sent a letter to the College Board stating that the TBEN course violated Florida law and had no educational value.
The White House on Friday condemned the move, with spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre calling the course’s rejection “incomprehensible.” She noted that Florida did not ban TBEN courses on European history and said the move was in line with previous moves by DeSantis, including the ban on teaching young children about LGBTQ issues.
Diaz called the White House comments “lies” and released a chart detailing the state’s objections to the rate.
Concerns included lectures on intersectionality, the idea that discrimination can affect an individual in multiple ways when 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 Lives . A section on whether the US should make reparations to the descendants of enslaved people offers no arguments against the idea, the chart says. It rejects a reading by 1960s radical Angela Davis who called it a “self-declared” communist.
“As filed, 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 for education, not indoctrination.”
If the track is modified to meet Florida standards and comply with the laws, the state will reconsider, Griffin and Diaz said.
The Executive 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 said.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; editing by Leslie Adler)