By Charley Gilewicz
AP African American Studies, a course that is currently being piloted and will be offered in all schools during the 2024-2025 school year, will not be arriving in any Florida Schools. This is due to Ron DeSantis and other Florida politicians deeming the material in the curriculum to “lack educational value” (USA Today).
The question that might be arising now is: why do these politicians believe this course’s content “lacks educational value”? Let’s look into it, starting with some background information.
First off, the course is split into four main units:
- Origins of the African Diaspora, which teaches students about early African kingdoms and communities, as well the transatlantic slave trade.
- Freedom, Enslavement, and Resistance, where students may learn about the slave trade, how slavery worked to “assault the bodies, minds, and spirits of enslaved Africans and their descendants,” the abolition of slavery, and more. A few examples of the sources used in the curriculum guide include maps showing the slave trade out of Africa and Frederick Douglass’ speech “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July.”
- The Practice of Freedom, which includes the Reconstruction era, as well as Jim Crow laws and other political, social, and cultural movements. Students explore the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, the writings of W.E.B DuBois and Booker T. Washington, and the ruling of Plessy v. Ferguson (when the Supreme Court ruled that segregation by race was constitutional).
- The last unit is called Movements and Debates, where students learn about the Civil Rights Movement, housing discrimination against Black Americans, the Black Power Movement, feminist movements, and “diversity within Black communities.” Materials in this unit include writings from Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and other political figures, in addition to Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, and others (via. USA Today).
Brandi Waters, AP African American Studies Senior director says, “So what [students are] really asking for when they asked for this class is the tools that the field of African American Studies gives them, which is this picture of how different communities are really interrelated.” Waters continues by stating how “diversity of lived experience and feeling like [students] now have more lenses through which to view American life and how disparate communities in America are connected to the broader world” (USA Today).
After reading what is taught in this course, it is hard to see which part of it “lacks educational value.” Learning about Black History, and more specifically how white Americans in the past caused a multitude of detrimental effects on black and African-American people for centuries, is VITALLY important to prevent history from repeating itself. We learn about the Holocaust for this very reason (education on this subject and other mass genocides needs to be improved as well).
The main reason Ron DeSantis and other lawmakers in Florida want to ban this course is primarily that it includes the study of “queer theory” and movements that advocate for “abolishing prisons” (USA Today).
Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. called it “woke indoctrination masquerading as education.” He tweeted out a list of topics of concern, including intersectionality and activism, Black queer studies, movements for Black lives, and the reparations movement.
Banning this course actively censors a large group of people’s history and culture, which is not normally taught, at least properly, in many schools.
In May of 2019, teacher Patricia Bailey made Nicole Dayes’ son and another Black student stand in front of their class while the other students bid on them during a lesson at North Elementary School. The children were told to refer to the winning students as “masters” and were warned not to try to escape because they would “be chased down and violence would be done to them,” according to a report from the New York attorney general’s office. The attorney general’s office found that this had a “profoundly negative effect on all students present – especially the African American students.” When addressing her son, Dayes stated how, “He told me that he did not want to be Black anymore,” and that “He didn’t want to go to school because he didn’t know if he could trust the teachers.”
Having AP African American Studies would not help a lack of qualified teachers on the topics taught, but having access to a better understanding of Black History might aid this issue, in both students’ and teachers’ biases.
The banning of this course shouldn’t be too surprising, however. Florida’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which was put into effect last July, prohibits discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity through third grade and sets limits on instruction after that point. This provides a good viewpoint on how Florida views the importance of discussing minority groups in school.
So why is the banning of this in Florida a cause of concern? Ron DeSantis is rumored to run for President in 2024, meaning some of these policies that he has imposed onto Florida have the potential to be put into national laws. The censoring of these classes has the potential to occur in all of American education, especially with the state of the Republican Party today.
According to the approval ratings of Republican politicians who are rumored to be running for reelection, Ron Desantis has 36%, while Trump has a slight lead of 42%. This means there is potential for these policies to affect the general American public, not just Florida citizens.
AP African American Studies is a class that has a large amount of educational value. Learning about Black History is arguably much more important than many topics that are currently required to be taught in schools. Black History, all the good, bad, and ugly is vital for the prevention of these tragedies from happening again.
While the banning of this class in Florida is very worrisome, this gives us all the more reason to vote in the upcoming presidential election if you can, and make sure someone who believes in these policies and censorship cannot get elected for president.
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