The administration of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) has rejected the College Board’s request for state approval of its new Advanced Placement (AP) African American Studies (APAAS) course.
In a copy of a letter obtained by The Star News Network, the Florida Department of Education’s (FDOE) Office of Articulation wrote to Brian Barnes, senior director of the College Board Florida Partnership, that the state “does not approve the inclusion of the Advanced Placement (AP) African American Studies course in the Florida Course Code Directory and Instructional Personnel Assignments.”
“As presented, the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value,” the state education department added. “In the future, should College Board be willing to come back to the table with lawful, historically accurate content, FDOE will always be willing to reopen the discussion.”
“In short, DeSantis has decided that APAAS does in fact violate Florida’s Stop WOKE Act by attempting to persuade students of at least some tenets of CRT,” Stanley Kurtz, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, writes in a column at National Review.
A veteran education policy researcher who has focused during much of the last decade on the College Board’s leftward lurch, including its revision of its AP U.S. History course, Kurtz asserts DeSantis’s refusal to approve APAAS “is entirely justified.”
He calls the governor’s rejection of APAAS a “bold and unprecedented” move, since, in his experience, “this is the first time that any state has refused to approve a College Board Advanced Placement course of any kind.”
Despite the apparent secrecy surrounding the APAAS curriculum, Kurtz obtained a copy and wrote about it in September. He observed frankly:
Although K–12 teachers and academic consultants working with the College Board have publicly denied that AP African American Studies (APAAS) either pushes an ideological agenda or teaches critical race theory, those denials are false. APAAS clearly proselytizes for a socialist transformation of the United States, although its socialism is heavily inflected by attention to race and ethnicity. Even if there were no laws barring such content, states and local school districts would have every right to block APAAS as antithetical to their educational goals. In any case, APAAS’s course content does run afoul of the new state laws barring CRT. To approve APAAS would be to gut those laws.
Trevor Packer, head of the College Board’s AP Program, told Time magazine in August that high schools have been clamoring for an AP course focused on African American studies, and, as opposed to 10 years ago, colleges and universities, today, have agreed to accept college credit for such a course.
“The events surrounding George Floyd and the increased awareness and attention paid towards issues of inequity and unfairness and brutality directed towards African Americans caused me to wonder, ‘Would colleges be more receptive to an AP course in this discipline than they were 10 years ago?’” Packer explained his reasoning.
Kurtz points out that if DeSantis were to approve APAAS, he would “effectively be nullifying his own Stop WOKE Act,” since, for example, most of the readings in “Unit 4: Movements and Debates” of the curriculum reject the concept of “color blindness.”
Teaching that color blindness is a racist idea is barred under the Florida act.
Kurtz describes the APAAS readings in Unit 4 as “extraordinarily one-sided” and promoting “leftist radicalism, with virtually no readings providing even a classically liberal point of view, much less some form of conservatism.”
Additionally, Kurtz notes the curriculum’s overall “promotion of socialism.”
“A state doesn’t need a preexisting law to decide that a course filled with advocacy for socialist radicalism is inappropriate,” he writes, observing that Joshua M. Myers, a member of the APAAS curriculum-writing team is a disciple of Cedric Robinson, author of Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition, and a champion of “openly anti-capitalist radical advocacy.”
Leftist media outlets have been panting in anticipation of the APAAS course’s arrival. The headline in August at Time magazine, for example, read: “African-American History Finally Gets Its Own AP Class—And Historians Say It’s More Important Than Ever.”
Time cites, among its “historians,” Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who reportedly also assisted in developing the APAAS curriculum.
“Nothing is more dramatic than having the College Board launch an AP course in a field—that signifies ultimate acceptance and ultimate academic legitimacy,” Gates said, adding:
AP African American Studies is not CRT. It’s not the 1619 Project. It is a mainstream, rigorously vetted, academic approach to a vibrant field of study, one half a century old in the American academy, and much older, of course, in historically Black colleges and universities.
In his analysis of the APAAS curriculum, Kurtz emphasizes the secrecy surrounding the College Board’s pilot course.
“Although the APAAS pilot has received plenty of publicity, the College Board has clothed the course in secrecy,” he explains. “The curriculum has not been publicly released, nor have the names of the approximately 60 schools at which the pilot is being tested.”
Noting an elitism in the College Board’s move to keep its curriculum secret “while simultaneously asking states to approve the course for high school and college credit,” Kurtz asserts:
This secrecy validates long-standing concerns about the College Board’s acting as a de facto unelected national school board. By filling APAAS with Marxism and critical race theory, while at the same time presenting the course as a harmless exercise in African-American history, the College Board is trying to fool the public. In effect, the College Board has decided to go to war with the national movement of parents working to take back control of their children’s schools. The College Board is using secrecy and prestige to nullify democracy.
While Kurtz praises DeSantis for “setting the mark for other states,” he wonders if other red states will follow suit.
“What about Texas? What about Georgia?” he asks. These and other states have CRT laws and Republican governors. To approve APAAS as currently configured would be to make a mockery of those laws.”
“And why would any state — CRT law or no — approve a course plugging socialist radicalism?” he asserts.
– – –
Susan Berry, PhD, is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].