Florida government officials have forbidden the introduction of a new advanced-level high school course that would teach African-American history and literature.
The decision made under Governor Ron DeSantis’ administration cited a lack “in educational value” supposedly “contrary to Florida law” , but did not state which laws the course would break. The course was due to be rolled out in a pilot scheme designed by the US college board, in 60 high schools across the US.
The Florida Department of Education stated its intent to ban the course in a letter to the College Board, submitted on January 12, suggesting that the course violates state law and is an inaccurate representation of history – “In the future, should the College Board be willing to come back to the table with lawful, historically accurate content, (the Department of Education) will always be willing to reopen the discussion,”.
The news has been met with a feeling of outrage, leaving educational professionals in shock and many high school students in protest. As Florida celebrated literacy week, teachers emptied shelves of more banned books and three high school students announced plans to sue DeSantis, their case represented by high-profile human rights attorney Ben Crump.
Democratic state Rep. Fentrice Driskell announced the lawsuit at a news conference in Tallahassee on Wednesday, explaining “By rejecting the African American history pilot program, Ron DeSantis has clearly demonstrated that he wants to dictate whose history does—and doesn’t—belong,”.
Under DeSantis’ administration, laws on educational censorship continue to be passed, not only focusing on written literature but eliminating the opportunity for open educational dialogue in some circumstances; and in the 2021/22 school year alone, it was reported that over 2500 books were banned from schools across the country, the opportunity for written and spoken educational analysis disappearing with them.
In 2022, DeSantis introduced the Stop Woke Act, a law forbidding the discussion of race, gender identity, and sexual orientation for certain elementary school students, and in turn allowing parents to sue educational establishments.
The new decision to block the AP African American studies course has been strongly criticized by the National Parents Union, who have expressed that the ban is a “direct attack on the Black and all (Black, Indigenous and Persons of Color) communities.” They added, “This behavior is dangerous and should concern every American”.
Despite the government supporting students’ legal right to receive information, the administration insists the course is too ‘woke’ —with Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. branding the course “woke indoctrination masquerading as education.”
In response, the College Board claimed the course was “undergoing a rigorous, multi-year pilot phase, collecting feedback from teachers, students, scholars, and policymakers”, and would “look forward to bringing this rich and inspiring exploration of African-American history and culture to students across the country.”