Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ controversial move to block college-level African American Studies course for high school students – referred to as advanced placement – was lambasted on Friday by the White House, calling it “incomprehensible.”

“It is incomprehensible to see … this ban or this block, to be more specific, that DeSantis has put forward,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “If you think about the study of Black Americans, that is what he wants to block.  And — and, again, these types of actions aren’t new. They’re not new from what we’re seeing, especially from Florida, sadly.”

“They have banned more books in schools and libraries than almost every other state in the country. 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 continued.

Earlier this week, DeSantis wrote a letter to the College Board rejecting the course, explaining, “the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.” The governor did not, however, provide the law that the course would be in violation of. 

The letter was penned on January 12, just days before Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Blocking the African American Studies course follows a pattern by the Florida Governor of limiting discussions about race in the classroom. He banned Critical Race Theory from being taught in Florida schools—explaining that it “teaches kids to hate our country and to hate each other”—as well as passed the “Stop WOKE Act,” which restricts conversations about race in schools.

DeSantis’ rejection has been met with massive backlash from activists and politicians. 

NAACP Director Ivory Toldson condemned the course’s rejection in a statement on Friday: “Ron DeSantis’ flippant dismissal of an AP African American Studies course is not only a dereliction of his duty to ensure equitable education for all Floridians, but shows clear disdain for the lives and experiences that form part of our national history. Dismissing this important subject as lacking ‘educational value’ defies centuries of evidence to the contrary. African American history is American history, and failure to comprehend this very simple fact is un-American in and of itself.”

He paired his statement with a tweet: “‘White students are 2.2 times more likely to be enrolled in at least one AP class when compared to Black students.’ Maybe having an AP class that reflects Black history and culture could help?”

Kelly Rissman

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