The AP Psychology debacle in Florida: will politics win over science? | The Triangle

The AP Psychology debacle in Florida: will politics win over science?

Samuel Gregg | The Triangle

On Aug. 3, 2023, the Florida Department of Education banned the teaching of AP Psychology in Florida schools. Citing the “Parental Rights in Education Act” (better known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law), the Department of Education instructed the immediate cessation of teaching foundational content based on “sexual orientation and gender identity” on the basis that it was now illegal. This posed a huge problem to AP Psychology, a college-level psychology class offered around the world, which contained essential content based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This is not the first time Florida has pushed back on teaching the entirety of an AP class as the state government previously argued against the implementation of a new AP African American Studies course statewide. In the state of Florida, politics had won over science once again. 

The College Board, the non-profit in charge of the SAT and Advanced Placement (AP) classes, immediately posted an official statement in response to the new update. The historically tight-lipped organization strongly urged the state to go back on their ruling, citing the state’s plan to teach the course while omitting the information about sexual orientation and gender identity as a violation of what the course has historically represented for the last 30 years and refused to accept the course and college credit unless ALL the content outlined in the course objectives was taught in the manner it was originally intended to be. In the statement, they stated an essential learning objective of the Developmental Psychology unit which describes the need for student’s to be able to “describe how sex and gender influence socialization and other aspects of development.” If students are not taught this information as a part of the course, the institution refused to accept the course as college credit, a huge blow to the students taking a course which is the fifth most popular out of the 38 AP courses offered. Not only did the removal of AP Psych endanger students’ ability to maximize on college credit, it also denied them the opportunity to learn an essential aspect of science, human development. 

To add on to the confusion, this ruling came mere days before thousands of high school students around Florida were supposed to start their school year, putting them one step behind students in the rest of the country. While many things could be argued about this situation, the fact of the matter is that the personal and political beliefs of leaders seriously endangered the livelihood and education of students who likely wanted no part in this political squabble. 

Thankfully, after receiving backlash from students, parents and credible scientific institutions around the country, the Florida Department of Education seemed to reverse their anti-LGBTQ+ stance, stating that the course could now be taught to completion in a manner that was “age and developmentally appropriate.” This 180 degree reversal of their standpoint is a relief but raises the important question: will politics continue to win over scientific irrefutable fact? That future is uncertain and yet to be seen. 

The United States as a whole has recently been grappling with numerous constitutional blows which are bringing us back to a time of inequality and injustice. This new issue capitalizes on that fact. The stakes are high and the clock is ticking. Florida’s blunder is one more addition to the list of reasons why we must undo this damage before it becomes irreversible.