New AP African American studies course becomes largely restricted in Florida


Photo by Bailey Holmes

Junior Ali Rustad studies coursework for the new AP African American Studies class being introduced to schools in fall 2023. The course is currently undergoing many changes due to Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis, who came out with major criticisms about the curriculum.

AP African American studies has been restricted by Florida’s Department of Education after Governor DeSantis claimed that it is an unnecessary addition to education that promotes political ideologies. The College Board has been forced to attempt to make changes to the course so it can stay in schools. Subjects like Black feminism, the history of Black Lives Matter, the history of Black LQBTQ+ rights, and more have all been taken out. These are all vital to not just Black history, but United States history as well, and DeSantis using the course as political leverage is completely uncalled for.

The course introduced by College Board would be put into schools for the 2023-24 school year. The overall basis of it is to inform teens more about the history and experiences of Black Americans. Specifically, it includes topics like the Civil Rights movement, racial uplift, Black women’s rights, the history of slavery/slave trade and early African kingdoms. Since it is an AP course, it is entirely optional and would be a great opportunity for students who are interested in those studies and might want to study them in college as well. It is offered as a major in over 200 colleges and universities nationwide, so why does DeSantis feel the need to restrict it in high school?

“Purely political. It has become obvious that he is doing this to gain his conservative structure and base to make them happier to get re-elected,” lawyer Tom Shroeder said.

Shroeder is correct, and it is more than obvious that DeSantis is encouraging restrictions or a total ban of the course due to his extreme want to gain political power. It is strongly assumed and likely that DeSantis will announce his presidential candidacy for the upcoming 2024 election, and he knows that in order to win he needs to start strategically catering to his conservative base.

Even though DeSantis is pushing the ban, the Department of Education in Florida was the one to make the official call. They were the ones to tell the College Board organization to revise the course, otherwise, it is getting taken off of the docket for the ’23-’24 school year. And, because the College Board is more of a business than they are an educational company, they did exactly what the FL Department of Education wanted.

Abigail Yates, an AP Human Geography teacher, explained that taking away these types of classes really “dulls education about resistance,” which can be very dangerous.

“For those people who might want to learn about it, it takes away their ability to do that. And for those people who might not, it only enforces the idea that you can just push stuff under the rug and not teach about it,” Yates added.

The want of conservatives to get rid of courses like African American studies stems from the anti-woke movement, something that DeSantis has largely monopolized to gain Republican support. In political terms, being “woke” is simply someone who is conscious and educated about racial inequality and social injustices. Now, conservative politicians have turned the term around to use as a negative against progressives, and fuel to get what they believe to be critical race theory and LGBTQ+ teachings, removed from schools.

You do not have to agree with it, you do not have to like it. At the end of the day, we are not the same and you need to respect the differences and respect people’s history. That is why I think history is such an important class.

— Gerard Coury

“I think they are afraid of the resistance and action that can come out of that, as well as equality and powerful movements,” Yates explained. “I do think other governors will make a similar move because a big narrative right now is how schools are ‘poisoning’ the minds of American children, even though those politicians do not know exactly what is taught,” Yates stated.

That narrative and fear of resistance by Republican politicians is exactly why students in other conservative states are scared that the AP course will be banned in their areas too. Governors in North Dakota, Arkansas, Virginia and Mississippi have all expressed that they do not support the course and would like it to be out of their state, just based on what they have “overheard” about its curriculum.

“Every state has its standards, but at its very core you want to be able to explain why things are the way they are today, and you want to give an accurate as possible portrayal of history…It is about the good, the bad and the ugly,” Gerard Coury, US World History and AP Psychology teacher, explained.

“You do not have to agree with it, you do not have to like it. At the end of the day, we are not the same and you need to respect the differences and respect people’s history. That is why I think history is such an important class,” Coury added.

By trying to restrict and even ban important factual information from African American studies, DeSantis and the Florida Department of Education is purposefully disrespecting an entire population’s differences and past. The United States would not be how it is today without Black American History. DeSantis is so afraid of “poisoning” the minds of children through school, and fails to realize that by hiding key parts of history from a generation in order to spread his own political ideologies, he is the one doing the poisoning.

Learning about different experiences and ways of living does nothing but broaden perspectives and open minds. Teachers everywhere, including in Minnesota, have the opportunity to teach students that history can not be ignored or skewed and that all cultures and races need respect. High schoolers deserve to have the option to learn about whatever they want to, including African American history, and nobody should have the right to take that away.