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Florida education dept. lists reasons for rejecting AP African American Studies course

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TALLAHASSEE - Florida rejected a proposed Advanced Placement course focused on African American Studies because it included the study of topics like the Movement for Black Lives, Black feminism, and reparations, according to a list of concerns provided to CNN by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis' office.

The one-page document prepared by the Florida Department of Education also questions the inclusion of certain Black authors and historians whose writings touch on critical race theory and Black communism. For example, the state objects to the inclusion of writing by Robin D.G. Kelley, a professor of American history at UCLA, who "warns that simply establishing safe spaces and renaming campus buildings does nothing to overthrow capitalism," according to the document.

The state also said the course framework for the study of reparations -- the argument to compensate Black Americans for slavery and other historical atrocities and oppressive acts -- includes "no critical perspective or balancing opinion in this lesson."

"All points and resources in this study advocate for reparations," the document said.

The state based its assertions of the course on an 81-page syllabus from February 2022. According to the list of concerns, their objections cover six topics of study, all in the fourth and final unit, when students study "Movements and Debates."  

At a press conference on Monday, DeSantis claimed that because of inclusions such as "queer theory" and "prison abolition", the course was pushing a political agenda stating, "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 on our kids and so when you look to see they have stuff about intersectionality, abolishing prisons, that's a political agenda."

Karla Hernandez-Mats, President of the United Teachers of Dade, condemned the state's move to reject the course.

"Governor DeSantis' ban on the teaching of A.P. African American History in Florida public schools is the latest in his string of racist actions that are aimed to appeal to a like-minded base. Florida has gone from one culture war, "Don't Say Gay", to another, "Don't Say Black," she said in a statement.

She said this latest move is just part of a larger pattern.

"This is a pattern of behavior the Governor has devised to attack African Americans. He arrested black voters who were told by election officials they were eligible to vote, dismantled two majority black congressional districts, and now he has turned his ire on educators, students, and the entire African-American community once again, determined to erase their history on his way to the White House," she continued.

She said this pattern will stunt the academic growth of thousands of students and make them less prepared to enter colleges and universities.   

A previous draft version of the state's concerns included an objection to the study of "The Black Power Movement and The Black Panther Party." The draft version asserted that "The Black Panther Party (BPP) was based on the ideology of Marxism- Leninism. Goal of the BPP was to fundamentally change or overthrow the American government." However, in an updated version of the state's concerns, the references to the Black Panther Party were removed and replaced with an objection to the study of "Black Queer Studies."

On January 12th, the state's Department of Education 12 informed the College Board, the organization that oversees the Advanced Placement program, that the course violated state law and rejected its inclusion in Florida schools.

The course, which is the first of its kind, was first introduced in the fall as a pilot in about 60 schools and will be offered nationwide starting in the 2024-25 school year. It was developed over the last decade and is intended to be a multidisciplinary study of the African American diaspora that includes literature, the arts, science, politics and geography.

The College Board declined in a previous statement to CNN to directly address the decision in Florida but said, "We look forward to bringing this rich and inspiring exploration of African-American history and culture to students across the country."

DeSantis' office said the state would reconsider the decision if the course is changed to comply with Florida law.

Under DeSantis -- whose standing among conservatives has soared nationwide following his public stances on hot-button cultural issues and who is said to be weighing a potential 2024 presidential bid -- the state has banned the teaching of critical race theory. Last year, it moved to prohibit instruction that suggests anyone is privileged or oppressed based on their race or skin color.

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