Florida Department of Education officials repeatedly diminished the impact of slavery on African Americans in their review of a proposed Advanced Placement African American Studies course, according to a report from the Miami Herald.
In January, Florida blocked the College Board from testing a pilot Advanced Placement African American Studies (APAAS) curriculum in the state, claiming that the proposed curriculum violated provisions in Governor Ron DeSantis’ “Stop WOKE” Act. The law signed in 2022 effectively prohibits instruction on race relations or diversity that imply a person’s “status as either privileged or oppressed is necessarily determined by his or her race, color, national origin, or sex.”
The Miami Herald reviewed the state’s internal comments on the APAAS curriculum, finding that reviewers raised objections to discussions financial and material enrichment of Europeants participating in the sale of African slaves because it “may lead to a viewpoint of an ‘oppressor vs. oppressed’ based solely on race or ethnicity.”
In one instance, in which the proposed lesson plan mentioned that African slaves had no rights to accumulate property or inheritance (save for rare exceptions granted by their owners), the state wrote that the claim “may be promoting the critical race theory idea of reparations.”
“This topic presents one side of this issue and does not offer any opposing viewpoints or other perspectives on the subject,” reviewers added.
In another comment, reviewers claimed that David Walker’s The Appeal contained “content prohibited under Florida law.” Walker, a freed slave, called in 1829 for the enslaved to revolt against their owners. The state did not elaborate on what content they found objectionable.
Reviewers also raised concerns that presenting the Black is Beautiful movement of the 1960s as a driving force behind the establishment of multicultural and ethnic studies as fields of academic study could “possibly teach that rejecting cultural assimilation, and promoting multiculturalism and ethnic studies are current worthy objectives for African Americans today.”
The comments made by state officials are exemplary of the manner in which DeSantis’ Department of Education has sought to forcibly turn conservative political grievances into an educational priority.
Instead of academically rigorous, accredited curriculum, Florida is instead facilitating the introduction of right wing propaganda into classrooms. In August, the state approved the use of PragerU’s “educational” videos in classrooms, making the right-wing nonprofit an official vendor for the state. The organization is not an academic institution, and lacks any form of accreditation. In one video, marketed for children in 3-5th grade, a cartoon Christopher Columbus reassures time traveling children that “slavery is as old as time,” and asks them why they would “come here to the 15th century and judge me by your standards from the 21st century?” In another episode from the same series, a fictionalized version of Booker T. Washington falsely tells the children that the U.S. was “one of the first places on earth to outlaw slavery.” The series also uses the image of abolitionist Frederick Douglass to claim that slavery was a necessary compromise to encourage the 13 colonies to unite.
Florida’s right wing educational overhaul is not only usurping discussions of slavery and civil rights. Earlier this month, the College Board announced that DeSantis’ laws against classroom instruction on LGBTQ issues and gender identity have effectively banned the teaching of AP Psychology in the state. The organization lamented that Florida’s policies are derailing “the college readiness and affordability plans of tens of thousands of Florida students currently registered for AP Psychology, one of the most popular AP classes in the state.”