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Florida's rejection of Black history course stirs debate

by The Associated Press | January 24, 2023 at 12:00 a.m.

By TERRY SPENCER and ANTHONY IZAGUIRRE

Associated Press

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis reiterated Monday the state's rejection of a proposed nationwide advanced African American studies course, saying it pushes a political agenda -- something three authors cited in the state's criticism accused him of doing in return.

DeSantis said his administration rejected the College Board's Advanced Placement African American Studies course because "we want education, not indoctrination." It was revealed last week that the Florida Department of Education recently told the College Board it would bar the course unless changes are made.

The state then issued a chart late Friday that says the course promotes the idea that modern American society oppresses Black people, other minorities and women, includes a chapter on "Black Queer Studies" that the administration finds inappropriate, and uses articles by critics of capitalism.

The governor said the course violates legislation dubbed the Stop WOKE Act he signed last year. It bars instruction that defines people as necessarily oppressed or privileged based on their race. At least some writers the course cites believe modern U.S. society endorses white supremacy while oppressing racial minorities, gays and women.

"This course on Black history, what's one of the lessons about? Queer theory. Now who would say that an important part of Black history is queer theory? That is somebody pushing an agenda," said DeSantis, a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2024.

Florida House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell called the administration's rejection of the course "cowardly" and said it "sends a clear message that Black Americans' history does not count in Florida."

"Imagine how boring and closed minded we'd all be if we only met ideas that we agreed with," she said Monday.

The College Board, after a decade of development, is testing the African American Studies course at 60 high schools nationwide. No school or state would be required to offer it after its scheduled rollout.

The College Board hasn't responded to emails and calls since Friday. It issued a statement last week saying it encourages feedback and will consider changes.

"These are real histories. The arguments about them are based on scholarly investigation and research -- as are the arguments from the other scholars on this list," Roderick Ferguson, a Yale professor who wrote some of the material in the "Black Queer Studies" section of the course, said. "Unfortunately, we are in a moment in which right-wing forces are mobilizing to suppress the free discussion of those realities. If we need an example of that mobilization, we could probably just turn to the forces that came together to reject this course."

Print Headline: Florida's rejection of Black history course stirs debate

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