Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday defended his state’s rejection of an advanced placement course on black history, calling the instruction progressive “indoctrination” posing as impartial academic pursuit.
DeSantis was hit with a wave of criticism last week after Florida education officials nixed the course on African-American history, with some — including White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre — asserting that the move was rooted in racism.
But the Republican governor rejected that portrayal Monday, arguing that the state wants “education, not indoctrination.” He claimed that elements of the course were permeated with “radical” political perspectives that failed to capture the spectrum of black public opinion on several issues, including criminal justice.
DeSantis highlighted course materials that he said advocated for the abolition of prisons.
“It’s not fair that to say that somehow abolishing prisons is somehow linked to black experience, that’s what black people want,” he said. “I don’t think that’s true at all. I think they want law and order, just like everyone else wants law and order.”
He also questioned the incorporation of “queer theory” into the course syllabus.
“When you try to use black history to shoehorn in queer theory, you are clearly trying to use that for political purposes,” he said.
Jean-Pierre last week ripped Florida’s refusal to allow the course as proposed, calling the decision “incomprehensible.
“If you think about the study of black Americans, that is what he wants to block,” she said. “And again, these types of actions aren’t new. They’re not new from what we’re seeing, especially from Florida, sadly.”
Jean-Pierre accused DeSantis and top Florida education officials of purposefully targeting the course based on racial considerations.
“And let’s not forget, they didn’t block AP European history, they didn’t block music history or art history, but the state chooses to block a course that is meant for high-achieving high-school students to learn about their history of arts and culture,” she said.
Vice President Kamala Harris also has said the decision to ban the course is “extremist.”
In explaining the rejection, Florida education officials said parts of the course syllabus ran counter to the state’s bans on critical race theory and “woke” ideology in classrooms.
The Florida Department of Education sent a letter to the College Board arguing that the class — which confers college credits to students while still in high school — was “contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.”
They added to the organization that they would entertain a revised version of the course in the future.
DeSantis repeated Monday that the teaching of black history is required in Florida schools and has mocked suggestions that he is attempting to censor the subject outright.
“Our state education standards not only don’t prevent but they require the teaching of black history,” he said. “All the important things. That’s part of our core curriculum.”