News/Op-Ed: Florida Department of Education Claims AP African American Studies “Lacks Educational Value”

by Mark Lutke

The College Board has confirmed that AP African American Studies will become an official course in the Advanced Placement Program entering the 2024-2025 school year, with many state governments and politicians opposing this educational opportunity.

Photo by Natalie Cheng, The California Aggie

Previously, this class was only available in a select number of high schools, but it will now be available nationwide to any high school that is interested. This announcement was met with a varied response. Some praised the new class as inclusive and inspiring, but others condemned the new Advanced Placement course as “non-educational” and “anti-American.”

Furthermore, the discourse surrounding this new AP class is politically charged and has caught the attention of United States lawmakers due to its content. The Florida Department of Education decided to block the class from its state’s schools. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis defended his state’s rejection of the course in a press conference, referring to it as part of a “political agenda.”

“We believe in teaching kids facts and how to think, but we don’t believe they should have an agenda imposed on them,” said Governor DeSantis.

This led the College Board to engage with the Florida Department of Education in an attempt to understand their grievances with the newly proposed curriculum. Although many discussions were held, the College Board states that no specific critiques or solutions were presented by the FDOE. They were instead met with “vague, uninformed questions.”

“We had no negotiations about the content of this course with Florida or any other state, nor did we receive any requests, suggestions, or feedback,” the College Board wrote in a statement.

Despite this, the College Board still implemented changes to the new AP course that appeared to align with FDOE complaints. This was seen as a political victory for Governor DeSantis, a 2024 presidential hopeful, and caused further backlash for the College Board, this time from their own supporters. Many believed the changes to be unnecessary and simply an attempt to avoid political controversy. The College Board, now backed into a corner, decided to respond with a more hostile demeanor towards the FDOE.

“We deeply regret not immediately denouncing the Florida Department of Education’s slander, magnified by the DeSantis administration’s subsequent comments, that African American Studies ‘lacks educational value.’ Our failure to raise our voice betrayed Black scholars everywhere and those who have long toiled to build this remarkable field,” wrote the College Board.

They also claimed that the imposed modifications were not due to political pressure and had been planned for months. 

Governor DeSantis would respond to this by generally blaming the College Board for the controversy, claiming topics featured in AP African American studies violate Florida’s “anti-woke” laws. These laws were put in place to prohibit K-12 teachings that suggest any individual “bears responsibility for and must feel guilt, anguish or other forms of psychological distress” for historical acts of racism.

As it stands, it is unclear what part of AP African American Studies curriculum violates these laws specifically. Despite this lack of clarity, Governor DeSantis is now threatening to completely sever Florida’s ties with the College Board.

“This College Board, like, nobody elected them to anything. They’re just kind of there, and they’re providing services. So you can either utilize those services or not. And they’ve provided these AP courses for a long time, but, you know, there are probably some other vendors who may be able to do that job as good or maybe even a lot better,” Governor DeSantis said during a press conference. 

The College Board has not yet responded to these statements, and it is unknown whether Florida will continue to support Advanced Placement courses administered by the College Board. 

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