Ron DeSantis’ Florida Is Too Anti-Woke to Teach AP Psychology

First he came after LGBTQ+ students with a measure opponents dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.” Then he came after Black students with restrictions on African American history lessons.

Now Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is coming after nearly 30,000 students a year with his continued attacks on curricula that acknowledges anything other than cisgender, heterosexual “normalcy.”

But maybe this will be the wake up call Florida needs, because this time, it hits middle and upper-middle class families—vis a vis, white families.

Recognizing that Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” 2.0 law, which prohibits lessons on gender identity and sexual orientation through 12th grade, would severely degrade standards that have been in place for three decades, the College Board advised Florida schools to not offer AP (Advanced Placement) Psychology.

“Any AP Psychology course taught in Florida will violate either Florida law or college requirements,” the board wrote in a lengthy statement Thursday that made national headlines.

The College Board wrote that they “cannot modify AP Psychology in response to regulations that would censor college-level standards for credit, placement, and career readiness.” Further, “any course that censors required course content cannot be labeled AP.”

For Florida students—an estimated 28,000 of whom took AP Psychology last year—that means access to college credit for the course is in jeopardy.

…maybe this will be the wake up call Florida needs, because this time, it hits middle and upper-middle class families—vis a vis, white families.

The news came just one week before school starts for the 2023-24 school year, leaving districts scrambling to determine what to do.

Options are limited. If they keep AP Psych on schedules as required for college credit, instructors could run afoul of Florida law. If they skip the offending parts of instruction to remain compliant, they run afoul of College Board-required content that would prohibit students from earning college credit for the course.

A third option—the one Pinellas County Schools has adopted—seems more sound. Schools can adopt the AICE Psychology class instead, which is the version used in IB and Cambridge programs. And the curriculum has consistently been recommended by the American Council on Education (ACE) for college credit.

There’s a really big “but” here though.

In a statement, the Development Committee responsible for guiding the AP Psychology course addressed the AICE issue, suggesting that ultimately, students may not receive college credit for taking the modified course in Florida anyway.

“We are surprised that IB and AICE/Cambridge—after agreeing to Florida’s demand that they exclude all references to gender and sexual orientation—expect universities to accept their courses and exams for college credits,” the group wrote. “No experienced educator or practitioner in our field would support the decision to make these topics off limits.”

They further wrote that it is their “understanding that ACE will be asking its review panel to review this newly restrictive course.”

Indeed, ACE President Ted Mitchell previously said that “it strains credulity to believe that our reviewers would certify for college credit a psychology course that didn’t include gender identity.”

Make no mistake, this is a big deal. Students rely on AP classes for college credit that allow them to graduate high school with a dent in their college course requirements, something that saves Florida families a lot of money. AP courses are also something top-tier colleges look at when determining admission, meaning students who take an unrecognized, revised course may risk some valuable credits when applying for more competitive schools, such as an Ivy.

But this may be a wake up call for Florida voters.

We know that voters are fickle when it comes to issues. They vote on what matters to them. “Kitchen table issues,” you’ll hear it described.

“Don’t Say Gay” most directly affected only some kids, those who were members of the LGBTQ+ community, or whose parents were. Florida’s history curricula guidelines most acutely impact Black students.

It sounds crass to point out, but quite frankly, this one affects not just LGBTQ+ students and families, or Black students and families, but white families who may have otherwise been spared the rest of DeSantis’ anti-“woke” agenda.

As I write this, teachers in Pinellas County are gathered for districtwide training where sources tell me anger and frustration is at a fever pitch.

School administrators are facing an onslaught of emails and phone calls from worried and, in all likelihood, angry parents demanding to know how schools will ensure their child’s education is not degraded. Many parents, armed with information from the College Board that AICE Psychology may not provide college credit, will likely ask that their child be moved to a different class.

The first 10 days of school are always a hot mess, as schools scramble to correct scheduling oversights and fine-tune the day-to-day operations. This move will wreak much more havoc.

And it is all because Florida is unlucky enough to have a governor running a culture war crusade to become president, and a state legislature complicit in giving him whatever he wants.

There’s probably a psychological term for all this, but I guess we won’t learn what that is in Florida anymore.

(Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the AICE/Cambridge curriculum had been altered to meet Florida standards, which is what the College Board claimed in a statement. A Cambridge International representative later told The Daily Beast the organization had made no such changes.)

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