AP Photo/John Locher, File
- The DeSantis administration blocked teaching African American studies at high schools this week.
- The move is one of several in a pattern of far-right policies limiting education in the state.
- “It just feels like there’s an erosion of democracy,” a school board member told Insider.
Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration banned the teaching of Advanced Placement African American Studies classes in Florida schools this week.
The Florida Department of Education referred to the history course as “inexplicably contrary to Florida law” and said it “significantly lacks educational value,” according to ABC News. The board pointed to the inclusion in the curriculum of Black feminist writers and activists like Angela Davis, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and bell hooks, according to The New York Times.
By contrast, the College Board, which is piloting the class in numerous high schools across the country, describes it as an interdisciplinary course that “reaches into a variety of fields — literature, the arts and humanities, political science, geography, and science — to explore the vital contributions and experiences of African Americans.”
Hillsborough County School Board member Jessica Vaughn, who represents District 3 in Tampa, told Insider the decision made her feel “extremely upset and horrified, but not surprised.”
Though she was speaking specifically on DeSantis’ anti-mask mandate in schools in 2021, Vaughn previously told Insider’s Kelsey Vlamis that local elected officials such as school board members should “have the ability to make decisions for the people who elected us.”
“In Florida, they’ve been slowly eroding traditional public education, but ever since COVID, there’s been an accelerated kind of approach, and it seems part of that is to cause a lot of chaos and push a lot of far-right politics when it comes to education,” Vaughn told Insider on Saturday.
Recently, Florida has pushed forward a torrent of harsh legislation — such as the Stop Woke Act, banning Critical Race Theory, and the Don’t Say Gay Act — that aims to restrict teaching the topics of race and gender. The state also put restrictions on school libraries.
“We will never surrender to the woke mob,” DeSantis said during his inauguration speech earlier this month. “Florida is where woke goes to die.”
“We must ensure that our institutions of higher learning are focused on academic excellence and the pursuit of truth, not the imposition of trendy ideologies,” DeSantis also said at his inauguration.
“The laws are very unclear and vague, and at the very least, if they’re going to make very strong laws like this, having guidance and clarification on those are really important, or else it leaves everybody in a gray area,” Vaughn argued.
She added that the legislation has a “chilling” effect on educators who will likely refuse to teach such things, erring on the side of caution in order to keep their jobs.
“I don’t really see where the solution is. I mean, aside from the erosion of traditional public education, it just feels like there’s an erosion of democracy,” Vaughn told Insider. “When you’re choosing that teachers can’t teach history or can’t have inclusive classrooms that support all of their students or you don’t want anything taught that resembles socialism — even though that’s a basic form of government, you should be studying all of them — then I don’t really understand how that’s different than fascism,” she added.
DeSantis’ office, the College Board, and the Florida Department of Education did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.