Meet Ron DeSantis, Former AP ‘Student of the Year’
When Florida Governor Ron DeSantis floated the possibility of eliminating Advanced Placement classes from his state’s curriculum, he conveniently left out an important fact.DeSantis was once the “AP US History student of the year,” according to his high school yearbook, pages of which were obtained by The Daily Beast.Before turning on AP classes in his
When Florida Governor Ron DeSantis floated the possibility of eliminating Advanced Placement classes from his state’s curriculum, he conveniently left out an important fact.
DeSantis was once the “AP US History student of the year,” according to his high school yearbook, pages of which were obtained by The Daily Beast.
Before turning on AP classes in his latest culture war skirmish, the governor not only benefited from the rigorous courses as a high schooler at Dunedin High School, he also praised the Sunshine State’s top three placement for students in AP courses in February 2020, calling the program “a gateway to achieving success in college, career and ultimately in life.”
Now DeSantis is trying to sell a populist pitch that APs aren’t worth the trouble, despite benefiting from the highly sought-after curriculum on his way to an Ivy League education.
The Florida governor’s provocation to the College Board—the company that handles the Advanced Placement curriculum, as well as the SAT exam—is the culmination of a series of interventions DeSantis has made in Florida’s public schools to suppress what his administration has called “woke indoctrination.” His blitz on education has also become a key plank of the impending DeSantis 2024 presidential campaign, with each new proclamation earning him praise on Fox News and across conservative media.
The Yale University and Harvard Law alumnus recently banned a new AP course on African-American studies, saying the interdisciplinary class violated Florida’s “Stop W.O.K.E. Act” by veering into “political” topics and trying to “shoehorn in Queer Theory.”
“This course on Black history, what’s one of the lessons about?” DeSantis said at a press conference in January blasting the new class. “Queer Theory. Now, who would say that’s an important part of Black history, Queer Theory? That is somebody pushing an agenda on our kids.”
DeSantis has since extended that line of reasoning to float scrapping AP courses altogether in Florida. While AP classes are not taught at every public school in the United States—around 88 percent of public high school students attend a school offering them—Florida would be the first state to outright ban the curriculum, which is designed to give students a head start on college.
Back in 1997, DeSantis received a commendation for doing just that.
“Ron ‘D’ DeSantis was awarded the AP American History Award in June of 1996, the Princeton Book Award along with athletic awards,” the 1997 yearbook obtained by The Daily Beast says, while further listing out a series of baseball achievements.
The yearbook, titled “A Unique Perspective,” shows an accomplished young DeSantis headed off to play baseball at Yale, where he would later captain the team.
The graduation ceremony pamphlet from the same year obtained by The Daily Beast lists “R. D. Desantis” graduating Summa Cum Laude with National Honor Society status.
A spokesperson for the DeSantis administration did not return The Daily Beast’s request for comment.
As a replacement for AP courses, DeSantis suggested using international curricula such as the International Baccalaureate Exam and Cambridge Assessment. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, released a statement in response to the governor’s suggestion by cautioning that the international programs “don’t provide the same breadth of course offerings and are not widely accepted by other colleges and universities.”
The IB program is only taught at fewer than 1,000 schools nationwide, and includes a Social and Cultural Anthropology course using many of the same academic frameworks blasted by the DeSantis administration.
Created in Switzerland and loosely based on the French baccalauréat tradition, the IB diploma allows admission to French universities, while other countries such as the United Kingdom convert it to an equivalent grade or score in their system, sometimes with additional requirements.
Compared to the AP curriculum, it’s been described by Harvard University professor of developmental psychology Howard Gardner as “less parochial” and based more in “interdisciplinary thinking.”
Still, IB courses remain concentrated in private schools, and Florida parents have been speaking out over their worries about opportunities being denied to their children.
“It terrifies me that DeSantis is threatening to eliminate AP classes after seeing how much it benefited my daughter’s education,” Colleen Hamilton, a parent of two children who went through Florida public schools, recently told The Washington Post.
“My number one concern as a parent right now is that my kids will be cut off from additional information about the world,” parent and education activist Stephana Ferrell also told The Post. “Will they be able to learn beyond what our state is going to allow them to know?”