College Board accuses Florida education department of slander

The College Board has accused Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) administration of slander after the state’s department of education said the board’s advanced placement African American studies course “lacks educational value.”

“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,’ ” the board said in a statement over the weekend. 

“Our failure to raise our voice betrayed Black scholars everywhere and those who have long toiled to build this remarkable field.”

The statement listed five mistakes it said it made during the course rollout, including treating the Florida Department of Education with courtesy only to be “exploited” in exchange.

“There is always debate about the content of a new AP course. That is good and healthy; these courses matter,” the board said. “But the dialogue surrounding AP African American Studies has moved from healthy debate to misinformation.”

DeSantis’s administration sent a letter to the College Board on Jan. 12 rejecting the course, stating “the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.”

Soon after, the state identified the topics of intersectionality, Black queer studies, the Black Lives Matter movement, Black feminist literary thought, the reparations movement and Black struggle in the 21st century as their reasons for rejecting the course. 

Key readings by Kimberlé Crenshaw, the “founder” of intersectionality; and Angela Davis, a “self-avowed Communist and Marxist,” along with Roderick Ferguson, Leslie Kay Jones, bell hooks and Robin D.G. Kelley were also listed as cause for concern.

DeSantis later defended his administration’s reasons for rejecting the course. 

“We want education, not indoctrination,” he said at a press conference last month. “If you fall on the side of indoctrination, we’re going to decline. If it’s education, then we will do.”

On Feb. 1, the College Board released a new program that removed many of the identified topics and readings. Its actions were met with backlash from leaders across the nation, while DeSantis’s office took credit for the changes. 

But the board’s statement said Florida never asked for these topics to be removed, and that the topics still remain in the official framework. 

“In Florida’s effort to engineer a political win, they have claimed credit for the specific changes we made to the official framework,” the statement said. “Florida is attempting to claim a political victory by taking credit retroactively for changes we ourselves made but that they never suggested to us.”

The board also corrected ideas that it has been in “frequent dialogue” with Florida about the course. This claim, it said, “is a false and politically motivated charge.”

Instead, the board said, its exchanges with Florida were “transactional emails” that included the board’s request for an explanation of what laws the course was in violation of. 

The board also said it did not receive any requests, suggestions or feedback from any state about the course, though Florida invited the board to call if it had questions.

“We made those calls, as we would to any state that says they have unstated concerns about an AP course,” the board said. “These phone calls with FDOE were absent of substance, despite the audacious claims of influence FDOE is now making.” 

The College Board’s statement also condemned a recent letter by Florida that called key topics “historically fictional,” though the board added that Florida refused to explain what they meant by this characterization. 

“This new AP course can be historic — what makes history are the lived experiences of millions of African Americans, and the long work of scholars who have built this field,” the board said. “We hope our future efforts will unmistakably and unequivocally honor their work.”

Tags College Board Ron DeSantis Ron DeSantis

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