Thursday, September 21, 2023
Thursday, September 21, 2023

Ron DeSantis is picking yet another fight with the College Board — and losing

by admin
Ron DeSantis is picking yet another fight with the College Board — and losing

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration has reached yet another milestone in its quest to subject Florida students to one of the most puritanical educational systems in the nation.

The Florida Department of Education has instructed its superintendents that Advanced Placement Psychology can only be taught in their districts if the course’s content on sexual orientation and gender identity is removed. In response, the College Board, which oversees the creation and administration of AP courses, said that any course taught without those components would violate college requirements, and as a result, “the Florida Department of Education has effectively banned AP Psychology.”

This is unfortunate news for Florida students, more than 28,000 of whom took AP Psychology in the 2022-23 academic year, according to the College Board. Now, just as the school year is about to start, it looks as if many of them will be robbed of the chance to take the course for college credit. 

DeSantis’ administration treats students as guinea pigs for a radical experiment in reactionary paternalism.

And it’s yet another example of how DeSantis’ administration treats students as guinea pigs for a radical experiment in reactionary paternalism, narrowing what kinds of ideas students should be exposed to, and weaponizing education as a key tool for advancing a right-wing agenda. 

AP Psychology has included content about sexual and gender identity since its inception 30 years ago. And it’s not a peripheral part of the curriculum, as the development committee responsible for guiding the AP Psychology course made clear in a statement:

[G]ender and sexual orientation are essential, longstanding, and foundational topics in the study of psychology. College-level introductory psychology students will encounter gender and sexual orientation as topics of study. Psychology graduates go on to pursue a range of careers and must be able to successfully navigate professional environments that will require familiarity with these concepts. …

No experienced educator or practitioner in our field would support the decision to make these topics off limits.

That’s the experts talking, but this is also common sense. How can one teach a course about the the development of the human mind and behavior while ignoring central pillars of human identity?

When Florida last got into a skirmish with the College Board, it was over some of the content of a new AP African American Studies course, including its coverage of Black Lives Matter, reparations, and Black queer studies. In what became a controversial back and forth, the College Board appeared to remove much of the content from the course that Florida had complained about. (The organization later expressed regret about the way it had handled the matter and announced further changes would be made.

This time, the College Board has taken a much harder line — saying it’s up to Florida as to whether or not it wants to deprive its students of a popular course which cannot be altered to suit Florida’s particular political mood.

The DeSantis administration has proved over and over again that it’s willing to use its education system as a tool for indoctrination and political point scoring. The state has restricted classroom instruction on sexual orientation through through the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, and the Florida State Board of Education’s new standards for teaching Black history describe the “benefit” of slavery in producing skilled workers. Florida has also passed a law that restricts college coursework on race and gender and defunds diversity programs.

DeSantis has made radically restructuring of Florida’s education system a centerpiece of his gubernatorial policy agenda and his presidential ambitions. That focus isn’t paying off strategically: He’s still being trounced by former President Donald Trump in the polls, and recent polling indicates he’s even trailing Trump among Republicans who care about fighting “radical woke ideology.” But the confrontation over AP Psychology shows DeSantis remains undeterred. As he doubles down on a likely ill-advised strategic gamble, the students of Florida will suffer all the more for it.   

Zeeshan Aleem

Zeeshan Aleem is a writer and editor for MSNBC Daily. Previously, he worked at Vox, HuffPost and Politico, and he has also been published in, among other places, The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Nation, and The Intercept. You can sign up for his free politics newsletter here.

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