Declare Ron DeSantis the winner again. It’s not whether he’s right or wrong, most often he’s wrong and courts usually agree even when they realize they don’t have jurisdiction, it’s the notoriety he gains from one of his culture war stunts. This week brought the news that the Florida Department of Education wrote a letter to the College Board, purveyor of AP exams and related courses, to inform them that they are banning the teaching of a new AP course, African-American Studies, which is currently being piloted in 60 high schools across the United States.
The first thing to notice about this letter is that no one signed it. The second is that no one has ever heard of the Office of Articulation before, whose stated mission is this: The mission of the Office of Articulation is to facilitate the effective and efficient progression and transfer of students through Florida’s K-20 education system. Through the work of the Articulation Coordinating Committee (ACC), a K-20 advisory body appointed by the Commissioner of Education, our office coordinates ways to help students move easily from institution to institution and from one level of education to the next.
Why is an office whose purpose is to see that students progress through their grade levels toward eventual graduation weighing in with an opinion about adding a new course to Florida’s course codes? But this is Florida, and yes, the Office of Articulation has the responsibility to approve new course codes that authorize Florida schools to add them to their offerings.
Funnily enough, there is a dodge to get around this, but Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) will decline to explain (a fine Florida tradition) in case state officials see this blog post.
That the course is contrary to Florida law is a reference to the law passed last year commonly referred to as the Stop WOKE act. Here’s the actual statutory language (scroll down to 4a). In the newspeak manner that characterizes the ‘free state of Florida’ that its governor, Ron DeSantis, proclaims, the statute defines as discrimination on the basis of race any mention of discrimination that has happened in the past based upon a person’s race.
Thus, it’s not surprising that Florida would look askance at an AP course that would examine the entirety of the African-American experience, including:
- This topic explores methods by which Africans resisted their commodification and enslavement during the Middle Passage
- This topic explores the assault to the bodies, minds, and spirits of enslaved Africans at slave auctions and the physical and emotional effects of being sold to unknown territory.
- This topic explores the impact of partus sequitur ventrem on African American families and the emergence of racial taxonomies in the United States.
- This topic explores strategies advocating for radical resistance and the reception to those ideas.
- This topic explores the influence of transatlantic abolitionism on Frederick Douglass’ political views on the potential for African Americans’ integration and belonging in American society. Students may analyze a text by Douglass, such as “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” (This one may have been a particularly thorn for Florida in that Douglass explained that a celebration of freedom is meaningless to those who have none. Question the 4th of July?! We outlawed that <ahem>.)
- This topic explores Black responses to white retaliation against strides toward Black political and social advancement during and after Reconstruction.
- This topic explores the scale and impact of African American migration in the century after the Civil War, including motivations to escape racial oppression and political and economic marginalization in the U.S. South.
There’s a lot more to look at, but you get the idea of what Ron DeSantis would find objectionable in the course. The bullet points are taken from this source, https://thecapitolist.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/AP-AfAm-Studies-Syllabus-1.pdf, and GOT is thankful for the news organization that ran it down: thecapitolist.com.
Now, if we get caught up in the legal kerfluffle over a constitutionally dubious law, we’re missing the real point of the letter sent to the College Board. That is the second assertion that the AP course ‘significantly lacks educational value.’
Oh, that makes sense because the College Board, who has offered AP courses for 70 years and colleges have been granting credit to students for about the same amount of time, has no idea how to put together a course that would have educational value!
What does that really mean? After all, Florida has offered courses in African-American history for years. (Nobody tell DeSantis or the Commissioner-Toady Manny Diaz, Jr. please or they’ll get rid of this, too.) Why would an unsigned letter from the Office of Articulation state that the course lacks significant educational value?
Why do they object to Black students studying their origins, experience of their ancestors, and history in this United States of America? Was it the student perspective offered during the development of this course?
“Students expressed these four expectations for the course: < Black perspectives should ground the text and materials. < Emphasis should be placed on joy and accomplishments rather than trauma. < Students should be provided with an unflinching look at history and culture. < Students should have an opportunity to learn about lesser-known figures, culture, intersectionality, and connections across time and topics.” (Page 70 of the course overview provided by the College Board.)
Was it this? “Regarding Black perspectives, one participant shared their thoughts on what would make the course stand out for them as a Black student: I think it is also important how the course material is presented. If a Black student is taking the course, will they feel that the course is written for white students? Or will it feel like it is written for me? Will it have that ‘wow’ factor – like I never knew this before. Or, will it have to accommodate to a larger [white] audience. Readings by Black people, Black voices. Not just an analytical discussion. The sources especially, having primary sources written by Black people is really important, and not looking at Blackness from the white perspective.” (Ibid.)
Having read through the course overview, including descriptions of each topic and the summary of research conducted, GOT has to conclude that the course has immense educational value. Why would Florida declare otherwise?
Could it be that Florida sees nothing of value in African-American history and culture? Nevermind the fact that Black culture has been the source of most of what is thought of as mainstream American culture: gospel music, jazz, rock-and-roll, and we have even borrowed (appropriated?) rap as white artists chant their way through a music career.
Is it that Governor DeSantis, the state board of education, Commissioner Diaz, and the Florida Department of Education think African-American history and culture are not worthy of study–lacking educational value?
Or is it that, as GOT must conclude, that they find Black lives in and of themselves as lacking value?!
Why else would they trash Black perspectives on history, art, and culture?
The ‘free’ state of Florida, where you are free to be as racist as you want to be. DeSantis approves.
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