Florida has blocked the College Board from testing a pilot Advanced Placement African American Studies (APAAS) curriculum in the state under Governor Ron DeSantis’ “Stop WOKE” Act. According to a letter obtained by National Review, Florida’s Department of Education’s Office of Articulation said the curriculum “is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.”
The pilot course, which has been tested at 60 schools across the United States, aims to expand the advanced coursework offered by the College Board into the study of the African diaspora in the U.S. The course has run afoul of DeSantis’ widespread ban on teaching “critical race theory” (CRT) in K-12 classrooms. CRT is an analytical framework that seeks to dissect the manner in which racism has shaped American legal theory and institutions. The concept has been co-opted in recent years by right-wing reactionaries to fearmonger about any and all discussions of race and discrimination.
The “Stop Woke” act, signed into law by DeSantis in 2022, essentially prohibits instruction on race relations or diversity that imply a person’s “status as either privileged or oppressed is necessarily determined by his or her race, color, national origin, or sex.” The bill also bans both schools and workplaces from “subjecting any student or employee to training or instruction that espouses, promotes, advances, inculcates, or compels such individuals to believe specified concepts constitutes discrimination based on race, color, sex, or national origin.”
In November, U.S. District Judge Mark E. Walker issued a temporary injunction on a portion of the law that attempted to place similar restrictions on higher education. Despite several challenges to the law on grounds of First Amendment rights, Florida has continued to lead the charge against comprehensive education on the racial history of the U.S. Several other states have passed similar legislation, including Texas, Idaho, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Oklahoma.
DeSantis has centered his administration around governance through culture war grievances. The governor passed a similar law last year, known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill that granted the state broad powers to implement prohibitions on instruction on issues of gender and sexuality in Florida schools. Under the guise of his anti-CRT crusade, the governor is reshaping Florida education in the image of the far right, recently announcing a plan to forcibly overhaul the New College of Florida, and transform it into a conservative institution. With increasing pressure on teachers and professors to avoid topics like race and gender lest they face the wrath of the state government, that transformation is effectively taking place though government-enforced censorship.