EDITORIAL: Ron DeSantis Doesn’t Understand Education

DeSantis is rejecting the introduction of the AP African American Studies Course


Ron DeSantis recently answered press questions at a conference regarding his reasoning behind Florida’s recent statewide ban on the AP African American Studies course.

Ron DeSantis” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 .

Southwest Shadow, Editorial Board

In the middle of the nation’s educational drought during the 2021 lockdowns, high school students across the country learned that a new advanced placement course, African American Studies, would be piloted in about 60 select schools across the country for the 2023 school year. This product of the national education nonprofit, College Board, was originally projected to gradually expand its scope year-by-year until it could be offered across the country as a standard AP class, akin to well-established courses such as Calculus or Physics- and for the most part, they have been on track to scale the course up within the specified timeframe. In some parts of the country, however, this course unjustifiably finds itself on a contentious political battleground, part of an ongoing national culture war. 

Ron DeSantis, the current Governor of Florida, publicly rejected the introduction of the course in his state last month following deep concerns with the specific course content. In a press release, he cited “objectionable” content within the first draft of the curriculum which he deemed unimportant to a Black history course. Some of this content included topics and learning targets regarding contemporary studies on the Black Lives Matter movement, and lesser known subtopics such as “Black Queer Theory.” While there is an argument to be made that some of the specified learning areas may be unsubstantial when viewed through the broader picture of black history, there is a solemn question that still remains unanswered: Is this even a history course?

The short answer- no. There are plenty of AP elective courses that cover a variety of different fields in their course material. In fact, CollegeBoard themselves describe the class as an interdisciplinary course that covers a variety of topics from literature or poetry, all the way to political science. When the class was piloted, it didn’t even count as a high school Social Studies credit: it was an elective course. The final nail in the coffin to DeSantis’ claim of this alleged rhetorically dangerous history course is that it is not a required class in any specific school curriculum, and that enrollment is completely voluntary. Students can look through a course catalog and decide for themselves whether or not they are interested in the class, and parents can approve their course choices- something that all consenting parents can legally allow their children to do. 

 This is not to say that DeSantis’ claims of “woke” material in the original course curriculum are completely unfounded. This course, which included reading supplements from author Leslie Kay Jones who wrote about systems, such as the “white supremacist superstructures that oppress (blacks),” indisputably reveals elements of an underlying content opinionation, regardless of whether one is to personally accept the validity of that viewpoint. By nearly all definitions of the term “woke” in a contemporary sense, this material qualifies for legal under Florida’s Individual Freedom Act, a piece of legislation that essentially attempts to wipe the idea of racial privilege under penalty of law in any educational institution. 

 Despite the state laws that currently exist in Florida, the act of banning such a class hardly aligns with the principles of free association and speech that DeSantis espouses, and there is no legitimate reason why this voluntary elective should be excluded from classrooms. DeSantis, and further, the Florida Department of Education, have repeated the narrative that the materials in the course are not relevant to an educationally valuable history course, though this is an exceptionally hazardous standard to set in any form of government. When a single authority has the ability to set the standard for what they deem to be “educationally valuable,” the steps to indoctrination have been complete. By refusing to allow the AP African American Studies course in their state, Florida is ironically stepping closer to propagandizing their students much more than a single class ever could. 

At its core, the inclusion of this class in Florida and in other states around the country remains an issue of First Amendment rights. No matter the intentions a local, district, or state government has with a piece of legislation, it has been proven time and time again that these devolved powers must abide absolutely by the precedents of common law established in our constitution. Florida’s blanket ban on “woke” material comes awfully close to breaching the standard of free expression in our country, and further, the individual rights of every American citizen to express themselves as they see fit. It may be personally difficult for some of us to understand what Black Queer Theory is- so instead of fearing the unknown, let’s do our best to accept.