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Psych! College Board Loses Big In Its AP Psychology Standoff With DeSantis

The leaders of the College Board have been looking for a way to have their revenge, and they found it in AP Psychology — or so they thought.


This past week, the College Board announced it will pull its Advanced Placement Psychology class from Florida schools, citing existing conflicts with the state’s Parental Rights in Education Act, known among leftists as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

According to the statement from the College Board, it’s all Florida’s fault: “Florida Department of Education has effectively banned AP Psychology in the state by instructing Florida superintendents that teaching foundational content on sexual orientation and gender identity is illegal under state law.”

However, according to a statement from the Florida Department of Education, it’s actually the College Board’s fault: “Just one week before school starts, the College Board is attempting to force school districts to prevent students from taking the AP Psychology Course. … The other advanced course providers (including the International Baccalaureate program) had no issue providing the college credit psychology course.”

Naturally, nearly every media outlet has taken the side of the College Board. In their telling, the College Board is merely a scrappy nonprofit trying to maintain the integrity and essential standards of its courses, but the knuckle-dragging homophobes led by the alpha troglodyte Gov. Ron DeSantis have aggressively rejected reason.

So the narrative goes. This is all part of a pattern: DeSantis did the same thing to AP African American Studies when, in the media’s telling, he decided to teach that slavery was a good thing in Florida’s learning standards for American history. Almost everything about this story is false. The College Board is making a power play, and just as it did with the AP African American Studies course, it will lose this fight.

The reasons for the College Board’s impending failure begin with the story’s disingenuous framing. This is not like David and Goliath, where a small testing company is taking on the big, bad state government. Rather, this is more like last year’s clash with Disney: A large, global institution is using its tremendous influence to bring down and humiliate a conservative state government.

For many decades now, the College Board has effectively enjoyed a monopoly on advanced curriculum in secondary schools across the country and around the world. Its main rival, the International Baccalaureate program, is minuscule by comparison. This has meant that all campuses and districts have been forced to comply with the College Board’s dictates.

Until last year’s debacle about the AP African American Studies course, no one had ever dared to challenge the College Board on its curriculum standards. True, there might have been complaints about the AP U.S. History curriculum being left-leaning, but this never rose to the level of a direct standoff between the College Board and a state DOE. To the surprise of everyone, DeSantis and the Florida DOE won this fight because it was obvious that the new AP course was a Trojan horse for a radical leftist agenda.

Ever since then, the leaders of the College Board have been looking for a way to have their revenge, and they immediately found it with AP Psychology. They decided to pick a new fight and insist that the course’s standards were incompatible with Florida law by treating a letter from the Florida DOE as a veritable declaration of war.

Believing they had a winning argument this time, as well as the support of most of the media, they would use this as leverage to challenge Florida’s anti-grooming law. Either Florida’s leaders would have to change the law, or they would have to deny their students the opportunity to take AP Psychology. Checkmate!

Of course, there’s more to this story than what has been reported. The way the section about the sexes and sexual orientation in the AP Psychology curriculum document is actually written does not conflict with Florida law: “Describe how sex and gender influence socialization and other aspects of development,” and “Articulate the impact of social and cultural categories on self-concept and relations with others.”

Nothing here necessarily requires a teacher to discuss queer theory, gender ideology, or alternative sexual lifestyles. Unless a teacher uses this skill as an occasion to sexualize or indoctrinate her students, she would be fine.

Moreover, the material in question is a tiny portion of the whole course. It’s not a whole unit encompassing weeks of instruction, but only two specific skills (6.P.7 and 9.B.1) among hundreds.

The College Board is equating the limits placed on teaching these two skills with removing a cornerstone of the course. This is like saying that neglecting to explain all the unconventional ways punctuation is used for rhetorical purposes (skill 8.C in the AP Language and Composition curriculum) somehow makes the whole class illegitimate.

Even so, groups like the American Psychological Association, argue that AP Psychology should include more content about so-called gender and sexuality. As the APA CEO Arthur C. Evans Jr. declares, “An advanced placement course that ignores the decades of science studying sexual orientation and gender identity would deprive students of knowledge they will need to succeed in their studies, in high school and beyond.”

In other words, if high schoolers cannot list and explain the 81-plus “genders” as well as give a detailed account of their respective sexual behaviors, they simply don’t know psychology.

Not only is this incredibly reductive (i.e., psychology is nothing more than sex and sexuality), but it is also completely irrelevant to the case at hand. If the APA, a den of unhinged ideologues that was once a serious scientific group, has a problem with the AP Psychology course being insufficiently leftist, they can take their concern to the College Board itself. As Arthur Evans Jr. said, it has had decades to do this.

Unfortunately for the College Board, it will lose big when the drama ends. Despite all the attention it is receiving, AP Psychology has mainly been an elective AP course for students to spruce up their transcripts, which most students don’t need for their college major.

If the College Board wants to take its name off the course, Florida schools can expect the small percentage of students currently enrolled in the class to switch to a different AP elective or take a dual-credit psychology course from a local community college. This will result in the College Board losing the millions of dollars it would have collected from the 30,000 students set to take the exam.

In light of this, there’s no reason for the Florida DOE to accommodate the College Board. Once again, the department has struck an acceptable balance between academic rigor and political activism. As soon as the school year begins in the coming weeks, it will become apparent that this was an idiotic hill for the College Board to die on.

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