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The Decline of American Education

How Florida's ban on the AP African American Studies course furthers the oppression of Black people.

Written by: Chanel Thorpe | Edited by: Amanda Siow


American education has been in crisis since 1981. The lack of proper funding for American schools is not a result of negligence—it is a deliberate attempt to influence our country's politics. A less educated population is less likely to understand the nuances of government policies and, thus, more likely to vote blindly for those that harm the working man and benefit the top 1%. It’s easier to exploit people who are too uneducated to fight back, and that is precisely what our government is trying to achieve. As Shawn Lynch noted in Observations on Education, Race, and Religion, “Education is a weapon, and they want us disarmed.” (Lynch 117). This applies disproportionately to marginalized and oppressed populations. One in particular: African Americans.

Florida recently banned introducing AP African American Studies as an option for high schoolers to take in public schools. The course is planned to be slowly released into American schools from 2022 to 2025 and is designed “to offer high school students an evidence-based introduction to African American studies” that uses an “interdisciplinary approach … to explore the vital contributions and experiences of African Americans." (College Board). However, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis claims that "the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value." (The Office of Articulation). Let’s break this down for a moment.

DeSantis asserts that giving voice to a traditionally oppressed, ignored, and unheard population “lacks educational value.” If anything, withholding African American representation from school topics flooded by a white European perspective is what lacks educational value. What is unnatural about a population being able to learn about their own people and history? Furthermore, this class is optional. It is neither "forced" upon every high school student nor widespread or far-reaching enough to affect the entire school population. It is hard to believe that DeSantis is concerned about “educational value.” Instead, what’s happening here is not dissimilar to the attacks on Critical Race Theory (CRT). DeSantis is trying to weaponize education by withholding it from voters to oppress African American people.

There is this idea that teaching CRT in public schools will damage the children of America. This is simply not true. Critical Race Theory, by definition, is the sociological idea that race inherently impacts our laws, justice system, and broader society. It is not specific to any particular race; instead, it simply examines the relationship between race and law, such as the dynamics between a minority and a majority group or the oppressors and the oppressed. For that reason, CRT is commonly taught in law schools. Nevertheless, misinformation has spread across the conservative population, leading to the fear of CRT "being taught" in public schools. According to Rashawn Ray and Alexandra Gibbons, authors of Why are States Banning Critical Race Theory, "Opponents fear that CRT admonishes all white people for being oppressors while classifying all Black people as hopelessly oppressed victims. These fears have spurred school boards and state legislatures from Tennessee to Idaho to ban teachings about racism in classrooms." This same fear drives DeSantis’ campaign against AP African American Studies. If the idea that racism exists in our governing systems is legitimized through our public education, the course would indirectly brand government officials as racist. Opponents like DeSantis cannot separate their identities from the institutions they operate in. Ironically, this only further illustrates how vital CRT—and AP African American studies—are to the future of our country. It is only through a proper understanding of how racism affects Black people that we can begin to pluck it out from the roots of our government. Learning about African American history and perspectives is the first step to closing this gap in our knowledge.

DeSantis’ statement has earned a series of uproars from all over the country, and rightfully so. However, he has already dealt a significant amount of damage. Since the release of DeSantis’ statement, the College Board has removed a few topics from the course. These include intersectionality, Black Lives Matter, and queer theory, which DeSantis noted as attempts at "woke indoctrination" (Alia Wong, USA Today) and considered necessary for removal before the course could be considered appropriate for schools. David Coleman, CEO of the College Board, has repeatedly denied that the removal was in response to DeSantis’ statements. Instead, the College Board stated in a report that "contemporary events like the Black Lives Matter movement, reparations, and mass incarceration were optional topics in the pilot course” and that their “lack of clarity allowed the narrative to arise that political forces had 'downgraded' the role of these contemporary movements and debates in the AP class.” However, correspondences between the College Board and Florida officials suggest that the two parties have discussed the matter for months (Alia Wong, USA Today).

This is unequivocally a tragedy for American education. We are moving towards a time when people refuse to acknowledge a fundamental part of our history. All this furthers is the oppression of Black individuals, which has already led to a significant portion of African American history being lost, destroyed, and burned. We cannot allow this trauma to continue for generations to come. We cannot let ourselves be ignored and forgotten. We cannot let history repeat itself. We must work together to destroy this pattern, starting with better, more well-rounded, and more diverse education for the public.


Works Cited

College Board. "Pilot: AP African American Studies." AP Central, College Board,

studies. Accessed 15 Feb. 2023.

Florida State, Legislature, Florida Department of Education. Report. 12 Jan. 2023. Letter, Accessed 15 Feb. 2023.

Lynch, Shawn. "Observations on Education, Race, and Religion." The Last Days of the Enlightenment, pp. 111-

17. The Last Days of the Enlightenment, Accessed 15 Feb. 2023.

Ray, Rashawn, and Alexandra Gibbons. "Why are states banning critical race theory?" Brookings, Nov. 2021, Accessed

15 Feb. 2023.

Wong, Alia. "DeSantis says he could do away with AP courses altogether. Here's what that means for Florida

students." USA Today, 14 Feb. 2023. USA Today, feud/11250682002/. Accessed 15 Feb. 2023.

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