Florida has sparked widespread controversy for rejecting an TUSEN African American Studies course that Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and his administration claim “lacks an educational purpose” and pushes a “political agenda” even though the topics the state object has only made up a very small portion of the course’s full curriculum that includes African American history and culture.
The TUSEN course was designed by about 20 college professors across the country to provide a comprehensive overview of African American culture and history, according to one of the professors involved, and is now being piloted in schools before launching nationwide.
The TUSEN course will focus on black communities in the US but place them in the context of the wider African diaspora, according to a copy of the curriculum made public by NBC News.
The course has four main sections: history of the African diaspora, the period of slavery and abolition in the US, African American experiences since slavery was abolished, and various black movements and debates, including feminism, black power, and the civil rights movement, along with African American Experiences Today.
Within those four units, there are 102 smaller sub-subjects covering history, culture, and concepts such as cultural appropriation and “post-racial racism,” including Juneteenth, the Harlem Renaissance, literature, music, military service, and black suffrage.
The Florida Department of Education said the state’s rejection of the course was based on six of those subtopics: intersectionality and activism; Black Queer Studies; Movements for Black Lives; Black Feminist Literary Thought; the reparations movement and black study and black struggle in the 21st century.
It cited concerns such as “intersectionality is at the heart of [Critical Race Theory]”, course materials advocating for reparations and abolishing prisons, and lectures by thinkers like Bell Hooks, who the state lamented wrote and wrote “intersectionality texts” about the “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy”.
Florida cited Critical Race Theory as the reason for rejecting the TUSEN class after the state banned teaching the concept in schools. Tinson told NPR that no real critical race theory is taught in the TUSEN course, but noted that the theory’s framework is “too advanced for high school students, even in a college-level course.”
“Intention [of the course] is not to indoctrinate [students] or tutor them in some political philosophy,” Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, a Harvard University professor of African American Studies who advised on the course’s design, told the Washington Post in December. “The story is so much more complex than just white people versus black people.”
Florida’s rejection of the course comes despite the state’s legal requirement for schools to teach African-American history. A statute in the state law mandates that African American studies and history be taught to help students “develop an understanding of the effects of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping on individual freedoms.” The statute does say that the instruction “should not be used to indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view” that goes against “state academic standards,” as the state claims the TUSEN course does.
What to watch out for
TUSEN African American Studies is now being tested in about 60 high schools across the country After reports, and will be available to every high school beginning in the 2024-2025 school year.
Florida officials confirmed last week that they had rejected the TUSEN African American Studies course, with the state’s education department claiming the course “lacks educational value and historical accuracy.” The move has since become a national controversy, with White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre saying the Biden administration found the move “incomprehensible” and “worrying,” and Florida faith and civil rights leaders responded statewide in opposition. DeSantis reiterated the state’s opposition to the course at a press conference Monday, claiming the curriculum pushed a “political agenda” and pointing to his studies in “queer theory” and “intersectionality” to defend the move. The course’s rejection is part of a wider range of controversial efforts DeSantis and his administration have pushed to push more right-wing policies in Florida education and ban supposedly “awakened” ideologies, such as passing legislation that would ban LGBTQ curbing issues and education that makes students feel they have “personal responsibility” for historical discrimination and placing restrictions on the materials that classroom libraries can carry.
DeSantis Defends Florida and Rejects TUSEN African-American Studies Course (TUSEN)
Denying TUSEN Studies, Restricting Libraries: Here’s How DeSantis and His ‘Anti-Woke’ Policies Affect Florida Education (TUSEN)
Here’s what’s in the TUSEN African American Studies course rejected by Florida (NBC News)
Florida says TUSEN class teaches critical race theory. Here’s What’s Really In The Course (NPR)
Teens embrace Black history TUSEN class, a topic under attack (Washington Post)