Education reform is a popular topic in policy and many attempts have been made to create more representative education. The College Board has attempted to do that. However, on Jan. 12, 2023, the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) issued a letter denouncing the new course, AP African American studies, to the College Board. However, it was not released until Jan. 18, 2023, when the letter became public. Amidst calls for more representative education across the country, new courses have aimed to close the gap. However, not all are accepting the change. The state of Florida is one instance where representative education doesn’t translate to accepting new course curricula. Instead, historical validity and relevance are called into question. Following the decision to denounce the course, more questions than answers arise to its rejection. Why would FLODE reject a course aiming to provide a more holistic view of America and the contributions of its marginalized citizens?
This question isn’t easy to answer.
What is an easy answer is how articulate the Florida Department of Education was in its rejection of this course. The course was not only historically inaccurate according to the letter, but it also lacked value. After this scathing rejection, the department, however, did extend the conversation once the “College Board be willing to come back to the table with lawful, historically, accurate content.”. At the core of the FLODE’s letter, the exclusion of the AP African American Studies course doesn’t adhere to the state’s administrative code. Moreover, the state posited that because the course couldn’t provide educational value, adding it to the course catalog of 1,485 public high schools in Florida wouldn’t enhance educational endeavors. Instead, the FLODE claimed further that it was “contrary to Florida law.” Yet, a proclamation of lacking historical value and thwarting the legality of the Floridian legal framework beckons the question: Who is the College Board, and what is the problematic nature of this course?
The College Board – the parent company that administers Advanced Placement tests that provide college credit to millions of American high schoolers – is no stranger to controversy. From its outset in 1900, the company aimed to close educational gaps by expanding access to higher education. However, following the Cold War, the Advanced Placement program was introduced to young American high schoolers in the hope of innovating and bolstering their intellectual achievements. However, the problems of accessibility, quality, and equity remain when extending AP classes in high schools across the country. Nevertheless, the College Board continues in expanding its course offerings to stay at the forefront of education. Boasting an extensive dossier, the College Board offers 38 AP classes ranging from AP Calculus BC to AP Art Design and Theory to AP Environmental Science. The latest classes include Advanced Placement African American Studies.
Presently, there is no front-facing document detailing the content of the course. This is largely a consequence of the course’s pilot nature in 60 schools across the country for the 2022-2023 school year. Moreover, the pilot nature of the course nods to its malleable nature until its implementation in participating schools across the country for the 2024-2025 school year before the first examination in the Spring of 2025. The AP African American Studies course includes topics like contributions made by African Americans in the humanities, literature, sciences, and culture. Further information includes geography and political theory. In order to cultivate a college-level class centered around the African-American experience, the College Board has partnered with African-American historians, and African-American studies departments at universities, and partnered with accredited educational institutions to ensure the educational value of this course.
Moreover, the Florida Department of Education posited legal violations in the State Board of Education Rule 6A–1.09441. Nevertheless, there is no law or clause specifically cited by the FLODE within the letter. The legal code directly proclaims the code’s ability to establish basic requirements for kindergarten to 12th-grade studies and enrollment, credit required for graduation, and what courses merit Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP), specifically for the 2023-2024 school year. However, it fails to name explicit provisions as to what does not merit credit. What lies in the letter is a citation of a vague legal code without specifications of what constitutes a credit-bearing course and what is historically accurate. Both were prerequisites for AP African American studies must reject. Neither prerequisite was present in the
administrative code referenced, however. Ambiguity remains without clarity about why the Florida Department of Education has rejected this course. However, it is possible to find a potential answer when observing the head of the executive government in Florida. Last year, Governor Ron DeSantis made national headlines after signing laws that restrict teaching in public schools. His careful eye for surveying content led to the rejection of mathematical textbooks and their proximity to critical race theory and social-emotional learning in 2022.
The debate surrounding critical race theory has led to several bans across the country regarding the theory’s place in classrooms. In 2021, Texas banned critical race theory claiming it ingrained America as inherently racist. Critical race theory is an academic framework that analyzes and underscores the significance of racism that has played into the structuring of American society and infrastructure. Such facets bleed into education, healthcare, housing, job opportunities, and other critical aspects of a person’s life. Although not explicitly mentioned, it is implicit that the rejection of teaching the thorough history of African-American studies is the trouble of painting the whole picture of racism. By teaching about geography and science, there is nothing lost to participants in the AP African American history course. Learning about the contributions of African Americans is not inherently racist. However, when looking at the disenfranchisement of African Americans despite the contributions they provide to the country complicate the image of American education. Historically, education has functioned as a pillar in American society to inform future citizens and enrich their lives civically, intellectually, and socially. With the advent of diversifying educational catalogs, more critical reflection is required by both state departments and educational providers to ensure optimal teaching and learning for students.
Edited by: Maria Cornejo
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