Florida officials tasked with reviewing a new Advanced Placement course on African American Studies raised multiple concerns the curriculum didn’t offer any “opposing viewpoints” or “other perspectives” of slavery before the state rejected the program earlier this year, the Miami Herald reported Tuesday.
The newspaper obtained copies of internal state documents after the state said in January that it would not allow schools to offer the new Advanced Placement course. The state claimed at the time the pilot program “significantly” lacked educational value and violated Florida law. The decision came amid Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) ongoing effort to target so-called “woke” culture, including the passage of the “Stop WOKE Act” last summer meant to limit teaching about systemic inequality.
The documents, however, appear to show an effort to whitewash the country’s history of slavery. In one lesson, the AP curriculum focuses on how enslaved Africans were removed from the continent and taken to plantations on Portuguese colonies that later became “a model for slave-based economy in the Americas.”
State reviewers said they were concerned the lesson “may not address the internal slave trade/system within Africa” and “may only present one side of this issue.” In a separate lesson that discussed how Europeans benefited from the slave trade, state reviewers claimed the curriculum “may lead to a viewpoint of an ‘oppressor vs. oppressed’ based solely on race or ethnicity.”
In yet another case, a reviewer said a unit about abolitionists that worked to free slaves was not “factually inclusive or balanced.” The curriculum, the reviewer said, would be more accurate if the word “owners” was used rather than enslavers.
The documents noted there were many times reviewers said the course should include perspectives from “the other side,” but didn’t add any detail as to what perspectives they meant.
The Herald notes one of the reviewers was linked to conservative groups including the Civics Alliance, which seeks to bar “woke” standards from teaching curriculum. Many of the comments in the document were not attributed to specific individuals.
DeSantis, who is running for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, has made efforts to target critical race theory and LGBTQ+ rights a core component of his campaign. He has quieted that strategy in recent weeks, but his campaign has gained national steam.
The College Board told the Miami Herald that it didn’t fully understand the critiques of the course, as Florida officials didn’t share the full findings of their review. Still, the group sparked criticism earlier this year from scholars who accused the body of omitting key teaching points amid political pressure from the DeSantis administration. Officials at the board admitted it had tried to coordinate with the governor’s team to see the program offered to as many students as possible, but later said it would revise the course to better reflect “this dynamic discipline.”
“In embarking on this effort, access was our driving principle — both access to a discipline that has not been widely available to high school students, and access for as many of those students as possible,” the College Board wrote in April. “Regrettably, along the way those dual access goals have come into conflict.”
The organization plans to submit the final version of the AP course for approval in November, but it’s unclear if Florida’s laws will allow it to be offered.
“We certainly hope that Florida students will have the opportunity to take this course,” Holly Stepp, a spokesperson with the College Board, told the Herald this week.