The recent attacks on public education by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are unjust and unwarranted. Dystopian future novels such as “Fahrenheit 451” and “1984” may seem far-off, but the censorship being proposed by DeSantis crosses the gray line that keeps these novel ideas fictionalized.
As DeSantis is — most likely — beginning a campaign to win the Republican nomination in the 2024 presidential election, he has taken some bold moves to reshape Florida’s public high school and higher education. This includes recently banning the new AP African American Studies course from being taught in public high schools. DeSantis claimed this course goes against his “Stop WOKE Act,” which is aimed at preventing critical race theory from being taught in K-12 classrooms and also restricts ways that race and gender issues can be talked about.
According to Britannica, critical race theory is the idea “that racism is inherent in the law and legal institutions of the United States insofar as they function to create and maintain social, economic, and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites, especially African Americans.”
College Board, the association that develops Advanced Placement courses, states that the new AP African American Studies course being piloted in 2024 “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.” Since the AP course was nixed in Florida, the College Board has revamped some of the curriculum including removing the required study of Black Lives Matter and works by Alice Walker (“The Color Purple”), among other important African American writers. The College Board is dealing with backlash of its own for this move.
DeSantis, who attended Florida public high schools and graduated from Dunedin High School, claims that the African American history already required to be taught in Florida public high schools is enough. However, according to some advocates, only 11 out of 67 counties in Florida meet the benchmark for this education.
While DeSantis is worried about the sort of “agenda” being pushed by this class, the only true agenda is a curriculum that embraces true history and gives students the opportunity to further explore their academic and personal interests. Keep in mind, AP courses are rarely required in public schools. By banning this course, DeSantis is taking away the right of Florida high school students to choose what they learn — and earn college credit for it. This in itself seems like an infringement on our First Amendment rights, something that the Republican governor should know all too well. He does have a law degree from Harvard, after all.
The ban of this course is just one part of the aggressive tactics being employed since the beginning of the year in Florida. On top of that, DeSantis has proposed new legislation that would affect higher education in Florida, and we are already seeing its effects with the events at New College in Sarasota. Namely, the proposal aims to require general education to be carefully combed through in order to make sure the material is “historically accurate,” and “[p]rohibiting higher education institutions from using any funding, regardless of source, to support DEI, CRT, and other discriminatory initiatives.” Apparently in the eyes of DeSantis, even the support of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in higher education is “discriminatory.”
Meanwhile, on their high horse in public press releases, the governor’s office claims that Desantis is trying to “further elevate civil discourse and intellectual freedom in higher education, further pushing back against the tactics of liberal elites who suppress free thought in the name of identity politics and indoctrination.” In reality, it seems like DeSantis is the one suppressing free thought.
Public education in the 21st century should be full of freedom of choice and encourage students to reach their full potential. In the world of DeSantis, censorship and limiting the advancements of DEI in higher education is more appropriate. Even though DeSantis just began his second term, actions can be taken to try to push back.
It is important for Florida politicians, and politicians from throughout the country, to voice their concerns. As students, we can do the same — writing letters to elected officials and being active citizens can go a long way.
Gov. DeSantis, please allow these students to learn without censorship.
*The Current’s Editorial Board consists of Carter Weinhofer, Katya Tjahaja, Emily Dorsey, Grey Curcio, Aaron Chimelis, Hallie Cowan, Georgia Bobo, and Leah Lentz.
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