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ICYMI: African American Studies Course Is About Pushing an Agenda, Not Education

February 6, 2023

FDOE Press Office

ICYMI: African American Studies Course Is About Pushing an Agenda, Not Education

Tallahassee, Fla., February 6, 2023 – Yesterday, Glenton Gilzean, Jr., president and CEO of the Central Florida Urban League, penned an article in the Orlando Sentinel titled, “African American Studies course is about pushing an agenda, not education.”

The full article is below.

As we mark Black History Month, the irony is not lost on me that recent headlines are focusing on anything but our history.

Being a lifelong education advocate, especially for at-risk youth, I can see that our community is in dire need of intervention to curb the many educational roadblocks that have plagued our youth for generations.

To be clear: the intervention we need is not a revised AP African American studies course, but significant and systemic changes to how our youth learn and to the support they receive.

Across the state of Florida, much like in the rest of the country, a significant achievement gap still exists. In our state, on average, there is a 30-point difference in the reading levels between white and Black students. This statistic is a precursor to future academic success and without immediate remediation, compounds into future problems for Black youth.

Yet, in the face of a pandemic, which exacerbated this number across the country, in Florida, due to an increase in funding and support for inner-city schools and an expansion in school-choice legislation this number has fallen.

Even more concerning to our community is the school-to-prison pipeline, an often-bandied-about term which has a very real impact on our community. Black students in Florida are 2.5 times more likely to be removed from classrooms and twice as more likely to be referred to law enforcement than their white peers. If one takes a deeper dive into these statistics, the root of these issues more often than not stems from a lack of family values and unstable home life amongst our youth.

Let me be unequivocally clear: as the president and CEO of the Central Florida Urban League, an affiliate of the nation’s largest civil-rights organization, I know that this media cycle has nothing to do with helping our community thrive, but everything to do with pushing an agenda that will only set our community back further.

Having worked closely with Gov. Ron DeSantis, I can attest to the fact that his commitment to family values stem from his innermost beliefs. For our community, these values are critical to our overall growth and success, and it is for that reason that the governor championed HB 7065 this past spring which directly supports youths living in fatherless homes. Our governor is keenly aware that the lack of a father in the home has a severe impact on our children, leading to dropping out of school, a life of crime and substance abuse. I was proud to stand by his side when he signed a bill to bring expanded educational programs, mentorship programs and one-on-one support to encourage responsible and involved fatherhood in our state.

As the leader of an organization which works directly with at-risk and justice-involved youth, this bill has already had a positive impact on our programming and will undoubtedly save many lives and families.

Black students need a strong foundation, both in school and at home, to overcome the myriad of systemic obstacles that they are faced with. As a society, we need to be working together to remove these roadblocks and give our youth every opportunity to succeed. I have had the honor of working with four governors in my lifetime. Gov. DeSantis has built upon the work of his predecessors by creating new opportunities, giving our youth every chance to succeed.

I am proud to write that since his first day in office, with the full pardon of the Groveland Four, DeSantis and his administration were willing to listen and take action.

Further legislative accomplishments also include historic investments in Florida’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities, safeguarding their place in our community and HB 1213, which requires all Florida students to learn about the Ocoee Massacre.

Black history is American history, which is why the teaching of Black history is already mandatory across the state. Yet, the proposed course, which runs contrary to state law, clearly has a component that does nothing to advance the teaching of Black history, but only the political agenda of a small minority.

As he continues to be mischaracterized in the public, history will also show that DeSantis has already provided more opportunities for African Americans in his administration than any of his predecessors, fulfilling a promise he made shortly after taking office to ensure the most diverse administration in state history.

As a proud African American, Floridian and someone who has made education the focal point of my career — I support the College Board amending this course, not only to comply with state law, but also hopefully to include members of our community as a part of the discussion.

We need to work together to strengthen our education system and provide more opportunities to foster the building of families and the uplifting of our community. Let’s include these values in your new course; let’s ensure that our youth understand how critical they are to everyone’s success.

History cannot be discussed without including our community’s present-day realities, which thanks to common-sense legislation and strong allies in Tallahassee, have remarkably improved. Please cease from using our community as a pawn to advance the agenda of a small few — as in doing that, you are truly hurting those whom you claim to protect.

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