Politics

Ron DeSantis says Florida rejected African American Studies course because of “queer indoctrination”

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R)Photo: Shutterstock

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said that his state recently rejected an advanced placement (AP) African American Studies course because of the course’s  “indoctrination” of the “queer” agenda.

“We have guidelines and standards in Florida: We want education, not indoctrination,” DeSantis said during a news conference. DeSantis was asked why his state Department of Education had refused the course, which is currently being offered by the College Board in a pilot program at 60 schools nationwide.

DeSantis said that when he heard that the class didn’t meet the state’s educational standards, he figured the course involved critical race theory (CRT), a college-level curriculum about the effects of institutional racism throughout history.

“It’s way more than that,” DeSantis continued. “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 someone pushing an agenda on our kids.”

Queer theory examines societal responses to non-heterosexual and non-cisgender identities. It’s an essential part of Black history both because of notable Black LGBTQ+ figures and the criminalization of Black sexual identities throughout history.

Nevertheless, DeSantis also criticized the course for having a “political agenda” because its current form includes content about intersectionality and abolishing prisons. Intersectionality examines how overlapping personal identities result in social privileges or disadvantages. Prison abolitionists want restorative justice and rehabilitation programs instead of just prisons.

“We believe in teaching kids facts and how to think, but we don’t believe they should have an agenda imposed on them,” DeSantis added. “When you try to use Black history to shoehorn in queer theory, you are clearly trying to use that for political purposes.”

Last Friday, Florida’s Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. wrote that the state had “rejected an AP course filled with Critical Race Theory and other obvious violations of Florida law.”

Specifically, the department said it objected to “the inclusion of readings from many major African American scholars, activists and writers, who explored subjects like Black queer studies, Black feminist literary thought, the reparations movement and intersectionality,” The New York Times reported.

Florida’s education department said it objected to readings from professor Angela Davis for being a “self-avowed Communist and Marxist”; professor Kimberlé Crenshaw “the founder of intersectionality”; and bell hooks for using language like “white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy.”

Though the College Board didn’t comment on Florida’s rejection, it noted that the course is still being revised based on feedback from African American scholars, the Times reported. The final framework of the course will be publicly posted before becoming widely available in U.S. high schools.

Critics have also pointed out that Florida high schools offer AP European History courses, which reinforce a narrative of predominantly white cultures colonizing and enslaving non-white countries in order to benefit capitalist and industrialist regimes.

It’s hardly surprising that DeSantis’s administration rejected the Black history course. Last year, he signed the Individual Freedoms Act (known as the Stop WOKE Act) which limits how racial issues are taught in public schools, public universities, colleges, and workplace trainings.

Last year, he also signed the Parental Rights in Education bill (known as the Don’t Say Gay law) which restricts teachers from acknowledging the existence of LGBTQ+ people in public schools. He worked with far-right media outlets and book-banning groups to help promote the law.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre criticized Florida’s rejection of the course.

“These types of actions aren’t new… especially from Florida,” Jean-Pierre said. “Sadly, Florida currently bans teachers from talking about who they are and who they love.”

“They didn’t block AP European history. They didn’t block our music history. They didn’t block our art history. But the state chooses to block a course that is meant for high achieving high school students to learn about their history of arts and culture,” she continued. “It is incomprehensible.”

According to the College Board, the pilot version of the AP African American Studies course will expand to hundreds of additional high schools in 2024. The final course will be offered in schools that same year, with the course’s first exams being offered in Spring 2025.

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