Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference on Jan. 26, 2023, in Miami. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier, File)
The organization that sets Advanced Placement curricula came out swinging at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, saying in a statement published Saturday that the state’s Department of Education “slandered” its AP African-American Studies course, and accusing the DeSantis administration of lying about its communications with the College Board.
The College Board also disputed that it had diluted the course and made contemporary topics like Black Lives Matter and reparations optional only after the Florida governor said the class would be banned from being taught in Florida schools. The DeSantis administration had rejected the course as part of a crusade against what it’s called “woke” education, then celebrated the College Board’s revised curriculum released earlier this month. But the College Board alleged in its statement that DeSantis—who is rumored to be considering a presidential bid in 2024—always intended to shut down the course for political reasons. The College Board statement says that the conversation over the AP African-American Studies curriculum “has moved from healthy debate to misinformation,” and that the organization needed “to clear the air and set the record straight.”“We deeply regret not immediately denouncing the Florida Department of Education’s slander, magnified by the DeSantis administration’s subsequent comments, that African American Studies ‘lacks educational value,’” said the statement, which is only attributed to the College Board. “Our failure to raise our voice betrayed Black scholars everywhere and those who have long toiled to build this remarkable field.”
The College Board’s statement came after the Florida Department of Education released a letter last week detailing communications with the College Board regarding the content of the course going back to January 2022. The Florida Department of Education said in the letter that it was in frequent contact with the College Board regarding the course. But the College Board contradicted that on Saturday, saying that phone calls attempting to engage with Florida on its concerns “were absent of substance” and rather focused on “vague, uninformed questions” such as: “Does the course promote Black Panther thinking?” “While it has been claimed that the College Board was in frequent dialogue with Florida about the content of AP African American Studies, this is a false and politically motivated charge,” the College Board said. “We had no negotiations about the content of this course with Florida or any other state, nor did we receive any requests, suggestions, or feedback.”DeSantis announced earlier this year, before the changes, that Florida would reject the AP African-American Studies class, because it was allegedly furthering a “political agenda.” “We believe in teaching kids facts and how to think, but we don’t believe they should have an agenda imposed on them when you try to use Black history to shoehorn in queer theory, you are clearly trying to use that for political purposes,” DeSantis said in January.
The dispute over the AP African-American History course is just the latest in DeSantis’s attempt to restore what he’s described as a more traditional K-12 and higher education, and which critics have described as more like an attempt at conservative indoctrination. Under DeSantis, Florida has passed laws banning public schools from teaching what it’s branded “critical race theory,” as well as the discussion of sex and gender in elementary schools. DeSantis also appointed six right-wing activists to the board of New College of Florida, a public liberal arts school, in an attempt to make the college into what his chief of staff has called the “Hillsdale of the South,” a reference to the arch-conservative private college in Michigan. The trustees fired the college’s president and named as its interim president former DeSantis education chief Richard Corcoran, a Republican former state House speaker who once described education as “100 percent ideological” and a “sword” to wage war for conservative values. The College Board claimed that it repeatedly pushed the state Department of Education to detail specific feedback and concerns with the course, to no avail. “We have made the mistake of treating FDOE with the courtesy we always accord to an education agency, but they have instead exploited this courtesy for their political agenda,” the group wrote. “After each written or verbal exchange with them, as a matter of professional protocol, we politely thanked them for their feedback and contributions, although they had given none.”The College Board also said that the agency leaked the letter to the media—it was first reported by the Tucker Carlson-founded conservative news site The Daily Caller—to “claim credit” for changes to the course and the removal of terms such as “systemic marginalization” and “intersectionality,” as part of an effort to “engineer a political win” for DeSantis.“This is not true,” the College Board said. “The notion that we needed Florida to enlighten us that these terms are politicized in several states is ridiculous.”The Florida Department of Education did not immediately respond to a request for comment from VICE News.Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.