Florida church to teach banned AP African American Studies course: 'Our way of evangelism'
A Florida church has offered space for teaching an Advanced Placement African-American Studies course rejected by the Florida Department of Education due to course content the DeSantis administration considers "indoctrination."
Pastor Andy Oliver of Allendale United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg is offering his church as a space to teach AP African American Studies after the state's Department of Education informed the College Board that it was not going to add the course to the state's Course Code Directory.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Oliver said he sees teaching the content of the course as essential to his congregation's mission.
"We have an important job as Christians to know our history, to know the history of harm specifically that African Americans have experienced in this country," he said. "I lead a congregation that sees it as a central part of our faith to stand with those who are marginalized and oppressed because that's where Jesus always located himself."
When asked how his congregation will come up with the resources necessary to teach the course, Oliver remarked, "It's central to our faith so that we will foot the bill."
"This is part of discipleship; this is our way of evangelism. This is central to our mission," he said.
Oliver told CP that although the church is still finalizing the plan for the course and where it will take place, "we're moving forward with it." The church's plans "are not concrete yet, but we've talked to almost a half-dozen teachers and looking at a team-teaching approach," Oliver said.
The individuals Oliver has talked to about possibly teaching the course include three people who are either "part of our congregation" or people he personally knows and three additional "members of the community."
He said that "it's yet to be seen whether we do this in a partnership with a private school and students can get credit for it or if we just offer it broadly to anyone who wants to take it and it's not necessarily for credit."
"Either way, I think there will probably be an online component to it," he said.
The church's offer comes after the Florida Department of Education's Office of Articulation wrote a Jan. 12 letter to the College Board informing the oversight body that the course doesn't comply with state law.
"The content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and lacks educational value," the letter reads.
The relevant state law, known as the Stop WOKE Act, outlines a list of concepts that schools must not teach because they constitute discrimination based on "race, color, national origin, or sex."
Specifically, the law bans any "training or instruction" advancing ideas insisting that "Members of one race, color, national origin, or sex are morally superior to members of another race, color, national origin, or sex," "a person, by virtue of his or her race, color, national origin, or sex is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously," or "a person's moral character or status as either privileged or oppressed is necessarily determined by his or her race, color, national origin, or sex."
The ideas prohibited by the Stop WOKE Act correspond with the ideology of critical race theory. Encyclopedia Brittanica defines critical race theory as an "intellectual and social movement and loosely organized framework of legal analysis based on the premise that race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed (culturally invented) category that is used to oppress and exploit people of color."
Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz elaborated on the concerns with the course's curriculum in a tweet last week, saying it is "filled with Critical Race Theory" and an example of "woke indoctrination masquerading as education."
One topic included in the course deals with "Intersectionality and Activism." The Department of Education described the idea of intersectionality as "foundational to CRT," noting that it "ranks people based on their race, wealth, gender, and sexual orientation."
The Department of Education expressed reservations about the inclusion of works by Angela Davis, a "self-identified Communist and Marxist," and Kimberle Crenshaw, the "'founder' of intersectionality," in the course curriculum.
Additional topics that concerned the state include "Black Queer Studies," "Black Feminist Literary Thought," "The Reparations Movement," "Black Study and Black Struggle in the 21st Century," as well as "Movements for Black Lives."
"Movement for Black Lives is an organization with stated objectives that include eliminating prisons and jails, ending pretrial detention, and concluding 'the war on Black trans, queer, gender non-conforming, and intersex people," the department explained. Additional readings flagged by the Florida Department of Education advance narratives of "white supremacist superstructures" and a "white supremacist capitalist patriarchy" while the unit on reparations provides "no critical perspective or balancing opinion."
Diaz vowed, "if College Board decides to revise its course to comply with Florida law, we will come back to the table."
In a tweet Tuesday, Bryan Griffin, the press secretary for Florida's Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, retweeted a story announcing that the College Board plans to issue a revised framework for the AP African American Studies course, attributing the development to DeSantis's "principled stand for education over identity politics."
DeSantis, widely seen as a contender for the Republican nomination for president in 2024, addressed the controversy in remarks Monday. Pushing back on the implication that not approving the course amounted to an effort to prevent schools from teaching African American history, DeSantis stressed that "In the state of Florida, our education standards not only don't prevent but they require teaching black history."
Oliver believes DeSantis's potential presidential aspirations played a role in his decision to oppose the AP African American studies class.
"The state is led by someone who's running for president, and unfortunately, he's doing so on the backs of black and brown people and transgender persons," Oliver said.
DeSantis has yet to announce his 2024 candidacy officially.
Oliver described the College Board's effort to "restructure the class in order to accommodate Florida" as "a shame." He indicated that his church plans to "offer the full course as it was intended to be taught" even if the state of Florida approved a revised version of the class.
"It very well may not be an official class. It may be more of a 'this is what this class was all about,'" Oliver said.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org