Florida strikes down APAAS and diversity initiatives


Ron DeSantis: The Florida Governor rejected a proposal to allow AP African American Studies in Florida

Janet Abrantes, Op-Ed Editor

AP African-American Studies

On Jan. 12, 2023, the Florida Department of Education (FDE) notified the College Board that they would not permit the instruction of AP African American Studies (APAAS) in Florida high schools, known as the Stop WOKE Act. APAAS, an interdisciplinary study of the artistic, scientific, and political contributions of African Americans, is a new college level course offered by the College Board. The AP course will be offered at U.S. high schools nationwide beginning in the 2024-25 school year.

According to Governor Ron DeSantis’ office, the instruction of topics in the proposed course, such as the Black Lives Matter movement and reparations, will make students bear “personal responsibility” for historical wrongdoings. Additionally, the FDE objected to the inclusion of certain Black authors and historians whose work touches on subjects like critical race theory, a cross-disciplinary study of how society is shaped by conceptions of race and ethnicity. 

Although four additional states plan to review the curriculum of the AP class following Florida’s ban, some criticize DeSantis’ office’s view of the new AP course, claiming that it encourages the College Board to present a watered down and inaccurate version of African-American history.

“I urge [the College Board] to maintain [its] reputation as an academic institution dedicated to the advancement of students and refuse to bow to political pressure that would ask [it] to rewrite our nation’s true, if sometimes unpleasant, history. One governor should not have the power to dictate the facts of U.S. history,” Illinois Governor JB Pritzker said in response to Ron DeSantis’ decision.

Ban on Diversity Initiatives

On Jan. 31, Governor Ron DeSantis also stated that he aims to ban public Florida universities from spending money on diversity initiatives such as non-discrimination policies and inclusion mentoring programs. The Florida governor went on to explain that he believes university diversity programs are “discriminatory,” and therefore ineligible to receive funding, even from sources outside the state.

“This is basically a component of the administration within universities that are imposing a political agenda, sometimes things like critical race theory,” DeSantis said. “The bureaucracies are hostile to academic freedom, and really they constitute a drain on resources.”

However, activists have come forward to criticize the way DeSantis is framing diversity and equity initiatives at universities as programs solely about race.

“The words themselves, ‘diversity, equity, and inclusion,’ show that these programs are not just about race; they are about ensuring that everyone has fair and equal access to Florida’s higher education classrooms,” Adrew Gothard, president of the United Faculty of Florida Union, said to The News Service of Florida.