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Fla. rejects AP Black history class, saying it ‘lacks educational value’

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in November in Las Vegas. (David Becker for The Washington Post/For The Washington Post)
correction

A previous version of this article said AP African American studies was the first new course offering from the College Board since 2014. Two other courses, AP Precalculus and AP Computer Science Principles, have also been offered since that year. This article has been corrected.

Florida will not recognize a newly created Advanced Placement African American studies course, with officials arguing that the lessons are illegal under state law and that the class “significantly lacks educational value.”

The decision is the latest volley in Gov. Ron DeSantis’s long-running war on what he considers to be overly “woke” curriculum. The Republican governor is widely seen as positioning himself for a possible presidential run in 2024 and has made culture-war issues central to his political identity.

Florida’s legislature has enacted laws limiting how teachers can talk about subjects including race. A measure signed last spring, for instance, seeks to ensure that students are not made to feel guilty for racist acts carried out by others. “A person should not be instructed that he or she must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress for actions, in which he or she played no part,” the law states.

It was not clear, though, exactly what in the new AP class runs afoul of those limitations.

The decision was communicated to the College Board, which runs the AP program, in a letter last week that was released to reporters Thursday.

“In its current form, the College Board’s AP African American Studies course lacks educational value and is contrary to Florida law,” Cassie Palelis, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Education, said in a statement. “If the course comes into compliance and incorporates historically accurate content, the Department will reopen the discussion.”

She said that under Florida law, districts need state approval to offer a course to their students.

The AP African American studies course, an interdisciplinary class that draws from history, literature, political science, art and other subjects, is being piloted in about 60 public high schools across the country. It was unclear whether any Florida schools are included in the pilot program.

Teens embrace AP class featuring Black history, a subject under attack

Revisions will be made based on early experience, and the course frameworks “often change significantly,” the College Board said. Details of the class will be posted for interested parties to see in spring 2024. It will be available to all interested schools beginning in the 2024-2025 school year.

The College Board statement said that the class does not aim to push any point of view and depends on students immersing themselves in primary sources.

“The course is designed to encourage students to examine each theme from a variety of perspectives, without ideology, in line with the field’s tradition of debates,” the College Board said. “Students will encounter evidence, weigh competing viewpoints and come to their own conclusions. AP students are never required to agree with a particular opinion or adopt a particular ideology, but they are expected to analyze different perspectives.”

Florida state Sen. Shevrin Jones, a Democrat from the Miami area, noted on Twitter that Florida schools offer AP classes in European history as well as Japanese, German, Italian and Spanish language and culture. “It’s crazy how AP African-American studies made the chopping block in FL,” he wrote.

María Luisa Paúl contributed to this report.

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Cries to remove books from classrooms and library shelves is nothing new. Some of what has shifted are the storylines, characters and authors being silenced. (Video: Allie Caren/The Washington Post, Photo: Illustration: Brian Monroe/The Washington Post)
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