Florida Rejects AP Course in African American Studies

Florida has refused to allow a pilot program for AP African American Studies in its public schools. In a letter, the state Department of Education reputedly wrote that the course was historically inaccurate and would violate state law. As reported by The National Review this afternoon and picked up by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Hill, The Huffington Post, CNN, ABC, CBS, MSN, USA Today, Rolling Stone, etc., even our very own #the-bbq-pit (here), but curiously not Fox News as of this writing (local coverage from WOFL).

My position on this is one of confusion. Why all the secrecy? I can’t tell if Florida is doing the right thing or not. The letter to College Board has not, to my knowledge, been published in full. Nor has the curriculum for this African American Studies course which was supposed to be offered this fall. The concept of African American Studies in general surely doesn’t violate state law, because it is offered by Florida public colleges right now. The statute suspected of being violated seems above-board to me as well.

Is Florida doing the right thing? Does the APAAS course, as proposed, violate state law? Why isn’t the curriculum publicly available? Why hasn’t the Governor/Dept. of Education told the public what specifically is wrong with the course? Why didn’t the letter cite the statute? You would think the Department would offer more specific criticism than vague ‘it’s historically inaccurate and would violate state law’, if nothing else as a matter of respect for the educators behind the curriculum.

Background (Click to show/hide)

College Board is a national nonprofit organization which builds advance placement (AP) courses for high school students. AP courses are designed to mirror introductory courses at four-year postsecondary institutions, and each AP course features a standardized curriculum and exit test (AP test). Most U.S. colleges and universities will exempt a student from introductory courses provided the student scores well on the corresponding AP tests.

College Board has been developing a course called Advanced Placement African American Studies (APAAS) for over ten years now. The curriculum is apparently not publicly published yet, yet a number of high schools nationwide will offer the course as part of a pilot program this fall. This proposed AP course would correlate with college courses in Florida such as AFA000 or AFA001 (Introduction to Afro-American Studies I & II). Time Magazine has a nice write up on the course, here:

African-American History Finally Gets Its Own AP Class—And Historians Say It’s More Important Than Ever

To succeed on the pilot AP African American Studies test, students will have to understand the concept of intersectionality, a way of looking at discrimination through overlapping racial and gender identities […] [T]he Reconstruction era after the Civil War […] progress made at that time, as well as how the roots of today’s mass incarceration system can be traced back to that era. There are in-depth lessons on the speeches of Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party’s free breakfast and medical programs […] a primer on June 19, 1865 […] And while students have the option to do research on the history of the reparations movement and Black Lives Matter activism, they won’t be required to know these topics for the AP exam.

On the other hand critics (such as The National Review) accuse the proposed course of violating Florida’s controversial “Stop WOKE” Act, passed last year. Codified at Fla. stat. 1000.05, the act reads in relevant part:

(2)

  • (a) Discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, religion, or marital status against a student or an employee in the state system of public K-20 education is prohibited. No person in this state shall, on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, religion, or marital status, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any public K-20 education program or activity, or in any employment conditions or practices, conducted by a public educational institution that receives or benefits from federal or state financial assistance.

[…]

(4)

  • (a) It shall constitute discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, or sex under this section to subject any student or employee to training or instruction that espouses, promotes, advances, inculcates, or compels such student or employee to believe any of the following concepts:

    • […]
      1. Members of one race, color, national origin, or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race, color, national origin, or sex.
    • […]
      1. Such virtues as merit, excellence, hard work, fairness, neutrality, objectivity, and racial colorblindness are racist or sexist, or were created by members of a particular race, color, national origin, or sex to oppress members of another race, color, national origin, or sex.
  • (b) Paragraph (a) may not be construed to prohibit discussion of the concepts listed therein as part of a larger course of training or instruction, provided such training or instruction is given in an objective manner without endorsement of the concepts.

~Max

“When there is any doubt, there is no doubt. That’s the first thing they teach you.”. — Sam, Ronin

Stranger

For one thing, it’s a pilot course, as you noted. It was launched last summer and is still being developed:

Why would you expect a fully developed course description to be publicly available for this course at this point, as they are for established AP courses?

And why would you expect a complete suite of AP course materials to be publicly available ever, given that the College Board develops authorized AP courses that it maintains as its own intellectual property and that schools pay for using?

For the students who might want to take the courses, and the parents who might want to enroll their kids at a participating school? Right now that Time article is the most detailed description I could find.

I’m not asking for a complete suite of course materials, and it isn’t against AP’s business or IP interests to publish a curriculum - which they do for all of their courses. Optimally there would be something like this: https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/media/pdf/ap-chinese-language-and-culture-course-and-exam-description.pdf

~Max

I wonder how the Florida politicians know the course Is historically inaccurate, and what those alleged inaccuracies are?

I assume the state was given the curriculum for review. It’s not like it doesn’t exist - The National Review claims to have read it and The New York Times has a statement from the College Board about how it could be revised before the 2-year pilot program ends - it’s just not published.

~Max

It’s probably full of woke ideas like “slavery was bad” and “Obama was born in the US”.

Well, techincally…

Stranger

“The Black experience in American history is different from the mainstream white experience, and deserves to be considered as its own historical discipline.”

Florida lawmakers: “BZZZZZZT!”

I can see the Florida tourism spot now, filmed on the beach:
Welcome to Florida. Stick your head in the sand!

:sweat_smile: :sweat_smile: :sweat_smile: :sweat_smile: :sweat_smile: :sweat_smile:

Your apparent confusion stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between the state apparatus and its educators. There is no respect whatsoever. There is only the tallying of political “owning the libs” points to set the stage for DeSantis’s future aspirations.

That’s not how the pilot stage of AP course development works, AFAICT. A limited number of schools are trialing the course this year, and a slightly less limited number will teach it next year. But a pilot course isn’t in the “hey I might want to take that, let’s get the informational brochures from the website and read all about it” category, again AFAICT.

This is supposed to allow educators to experiment with a course and see what works and what doesn’t before College Board considers it an approved standard course. Naturally, this reasonable objective must not be allowed to get in the way of the modern “conservative” movement using the course’s existence as an excuse for their usual political grandstanding.

An opinion piece by MSNBC led me to this tweet from Florida’s Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz Jr., the individual with the authority to reject the APAAS course.

Imgur

ETA:

At first glance, I don’t know what intersectionality is or why it would be problematic so I’ll have to research that and form an opinion later. Problems with included readings advocating something can be easily alleviated with a critical or balancing opinion. (The Associated Press reports that the College Board will submit a revised curriciulum next week.) Many historical figures advocated radical ideas even by today’s standards, and we get around that by either not assigning that part as a reading or by offering the other side of the argument as a counterbalance. The idea that an included reading is problematic simply because of the author’s other works or actions is ridiculous, see also assigned readings from Founding Fathers who owned slaves. Or how would you teach about Communism without referencing Marx/Lenin?

Having an entire section on the reparations movement without any critical perspective or balancing opinion, if true, seems to me to violate the above-referenced statute. And generally I think it’s not a good idea to do one-sided coverage of current controversies in school.

~Max

I haven’t heard of any serious interpretation of “intersectionality” beyond its original significance of “recognizing fundamental interconnections among different social categories such as race, gender, class, sexual orientation, etc.” I.e., it’s not really possible to compartmentalize different types of identity and discrimination as totally separate social phenomena.

That seems to me like a very uncontroversial observation, and I have no idea why a rational person would find intersectionality so “concerning”. Diaz’s description of it as “foundational to CRT” and that it “ranks people based on their race, wealth, gender and sexual orientation” strikes me as standard uninformed conservative hysteria about their “wokeness” boogeyman.

Seems obvious to me. Right-wing power brokers use wedge issues and narrow identity politics to create factions in the underclass and pit them against one another. Intersectionality is the discipline of recognizing shared characteristics and common interests. If it catches on, the oppressed underclasses will realize where they’re more alike than different, and who’s really responsible for their oppression. And from there it’s a short walk to putting wealthy heads on spikes. No wonder the powers that be would be so concerned about it.

You can download a copy of the February 2022 Course Syllabus here:

However, it seems to only have detailed information on part 1, while all of the objections seem to be from part 4. It does cite the authors from the tweeted table (at least the ones I checked).

ETA: I believe this document was leaked, not released.

I can’t speak for education systems of other countries or their different experiences. There is limited time to teach, and only a portion of this time should be devoted to history. This time should reflect national experiences and include “historical wrongs” in context. There are general classes every student should take, and advanced classes only those with a specific interest choose to take. I have no problems with any of the topics being taught in an advanced elective course, or in a more limited way in a general history course which should also include much else.

As to the alleged confusion, “where there’s a will, there’s a won’t.” I don’t think education and politics generally make a good mix, but some is unavoidable, especially in the United States, and more so with certain topics.

Basically, intersectionality means that you can’t understand the challenges a black woman faces by just looking at the challenges a black man faces and the challenges a white woman faces. Or any other combination of underprivileged demographics. The intersection of multiple demographics always carries with it its own issues.

I posted this in the Pit thread, but it belongs here too:

Reviewing Hammer and Hoe for American Quarterly , historian David Roediger emphasized Kelley’s methodological approach as descriptive rather than normative project: “Kelley asks not whether the Communist party was good (or correct or independent) but how the party came to attract a substantial number of African-American workers in Alabama and to energize their struggles [emphasis in the original]. Or, more exactly he asks how these black workers could embrace and use the Communist party as a vehicle for organizing themselves. He insists on measuring radicalism not by its ideological purity but by its ability to interact with a received culture to generate bold class organizations.”[5] Writing at The Nation , Sarah Jaffe says, “Kelley details […] how black workers in Alabama made communism their own, blending the teachings of Marx and Lenin with those of the black church and the lessons of decades of resistance to slavery, segregation, and racist terrorism.”[2]

As Hegel would say, one grabs from history what is good from the past to make the present better, as in not looking at communism now, but how activism can make things better.

And the admistrators in Florida can’t have that.

I wonder if they would permit a course in “Why Florida is like a third-world country”. There’s certainly lots of great material for it! :wink: Thanks in part to DeSantis, Florida is making Texas look almost civilized in comparison.