TALLEHESSEE, Fla. — A week after his administration banned an AP course on African American studies from Florida high school classrooms, Gov. Ron DeSantis has doubled down on the decision.
The governor, in a news conference, insisted Florida requires Black history be taught as part of its regular curriculum. The advanced placement course, he said, was on top of that regular teaching and in his view amounted to indoctrination.
“We have guidelines and standards in Florida,” DeSantis said. The National Review published his comments. “We want education, not indoctrination. If you fall on the side of indoctrination, we’re going to decline. If it’s education, then we will do it.”
DeSantis said when his education department rejected the AP curriculum, he suspected it contained teaching of critical race theory, something Florida has prohibited. The governor said what he found was more problematic.
“What’s one of the lessons about? Queer theory,” DeSantis said. “Now, who would say that an important part of Black history is queer theory? That is somebody pushing an agenda on our kids. And so when you look to see they have stuff about intersectionality, abolishing prisons, that’s a political agenda.”
The College Board has not made the curriculum for the class public. Copies of the curriculum have leaked into the public, however. The College Board said this week that by Feb. 1, it will release a new framework for the class.
The DeSantis administration sent a letter to the College Board rejecting the course this month, saying, “As presented, the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.”
A spokesperson for the College Board did not respond to questions from NBC News about whether the change was a direct result of Florida’s rejection of the course.
Sixty high schools across the country are teaching the class this year as a pilot program.
“The official course framework incorporates this feedback and defines what students will encounter on the AP Exam for college credit and placement,” the College Board told NBC on Tuesday.
DeSantis, a potential 2024 GOP presidential candidate, has made a name for himself taking on what he calls liberal ideologies in schools. Last year he signed into law the Stop Woke Act, which restricts discussions of race in schools and businesses.
“We believe in education, not indoctrination,” DeSantis said when he signed the bill.
The state did not explicitly say, initially, why it rejected the AP class. On Tuesday, the Florida Education Department said it welcomed the revisions, even though they have not yet been released.
“AP courses are standardized nationwide, and as a result of Florida’s strong stance against identity politics and indoctrination, students across the country will consequentially have access to an historically accurate, unbiased course,” Alex Lanfranconi, a spokesman for the agency, told NBC.
DeSantis’ decision to reject the AP course in African American studies was roundly criticized.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump announced on Twitter his intention to sue DeSantis and his administration over the decision.
Rev. Dr. R.B. Holmes Jr., pastor of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Tallahassee and a former Republican, said a group of Black leaders hope to create a statewide movement to spark conversations about the value of “learning about all people’s history, and not at the expense of erasing and eliminating Black studies.”
Holmes spoke at a rally in Tallahassee opposing DeSantis’ decision.
“Black history is not inferior, and Black history does not lack educational value,” Holmes said.
The White House also criticized the decision, calling it “incomprehensible.”
“If you think about the study of Black Americans, that is what he wants to block. And, again, these types of actions aren’t new. They’re not new from what we’re seeing, especially from Florida, sadly,” Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press secretary, said during a briefing.
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