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No More AP Psychology in Florida

We're going to stick with the Ron DeSantis beat for now. In fact, it's going to continue for another item beyond this. Don't say you weren't warned. Yesterday, the news broke that, in his war to remake education in Florida and to fight wokeness (despite nobody really understanding what that means), DeSantis has effectively killed yet another AP class. Everyone already knows about African-American Studies, and now Psychology has joined the list.

The story on the ground is a little complicated, and puts the College Board (administrator of the AP tests) in a position of advocating against its own interests. All other things being equal, the Board wants students taking as many AP courses and as many AP tests as is possible. This satisfies both of the Board's missions: (1) advancing students' educations and (2) making money. However, Florida state law now forbids the teaching of any material on sexual orientation and identity. The Board isn't going to change its standards or its tests for one anti-woke governor, and so it is now urging schools not to offer AP Psychology and is urging students not to take the test (since you can't exactly pass if you haven't learned 20% of the material).

We are going to assume that DeSantis, as a holder of multiple degrees from elite universities, understands that he is peddling bull**it here, and that there is no way the College Board can accommodate Florida's new "curriculum." To start, teaching information is not the same thing as advocating for the truthfulness or righteousness of that information. (Z), for example, has taught the Civil War at least 20 times, and while he has covered slavery extensively, he has never once come out in favor of slavery. Heck, he's never even come out in favor of the "educational benefits" of the slave system.

On top of that, even if you assume that teaching certain information IS advocacy, it's not the College Board's advocacy. The whole point of AP courses and tests is to replace general-education level college courses, so that students can start their college careers with some number of units in the bank. It is therefore necessary for the AP tests to line up with a GE-level college curriculum in the same subject. And in turn, it is necessary for GE-level courses to provide some foundation for advanced work, should a student end up taking upper-division courses in a subject. When he was in college (Z) took three upper-division psych courses, and every one of them had a unit on sexual orientation and identity. And that was 30 years ago; one can only imagine that material occupies an even bigger portion of the syllabus today. The upshot is that there's no way for either the Board or the nation's universities to course-correct, no matter how much Florida whines, cries and screams.

Let us now recall that all of this mucking around in education is prompted by the fact that parents tend to be very protective of their kids (and their kids' educations), and some Republicans (Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia, most notably) saw an opportunity to weaponize that. However, he who lives by the sword dies by the sword, as they say. And DeSantis, in his efforts to score points by mimicking Youngkin (but taking it to greater extremes) may find that his schemes will backfire on him, in the end. The number of students who take the AP African-American Studies test, and the AP Psychology test, in Florida each year is relatively small (30,000 or so). But that's not nothing, and one can foresee future interference with other subjects: Biology (evolution), U.S. History (slavery, Trail of Tears, nuking Japan and other stuff that gives white people the sads), Literature (lots of books have LGBTQ subtext, or outright text), Art History (some artworks feature people sans clothes), etc. Eventually, it is going to occur to many parents and students, if it hasn't occurred to them already, that the Governor is putting college-bound Floridians at a competitive disadvantage in search of cheap political points.

DeSantis will never again run for governor, of course. However, if he is to have any hope of being nominated for president, he needs to win his home state. Plus, if the president thing doesn't work out (the likely outcome), he might try to run for a U.S. Senate seat. After all, that's what former governors of Florida do. And the more unpopular he gets with his fellow Sunshine Staters, the less likely that any of DeSantis' best-laid plans for his political future will work out for him. (Z)

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