Themacforums – The College Board Strips Down Its A.P. Curriculum for African American Studies. The College Board unveiled the official curriculum for its new Advanced Placement course in African American Studies on Wednesday, but it was heavily edited to remove much of the content that had incensed Gov. Ron DeSantis and other conservatives.
Numerous Black authors and academics who were involved in queer theory, critical race theory, and Black feminism had their names removed by the College Board. It removed some politically contentious subjects from the formal curriculum, such as Black Lives Matter.
Additionally, it introduced a brand-new concept: “Black conservatism” is now presented as a topic for a study project.
Eminent academics like Harvard’s Henry Louis Gates Jr. applauded the College Board’s announcement of the A.P. course in August as an acknowledgment of the value of African American studies. The College Board undoubtedly believed that the A.P. course was a course whose time had come. However, the course—which is intended for students from all backgrounds—suddenly found itself at the center of a political frenzy after an early manuscript was revealed to conservative media outlets like The Florida Standard and National Review.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is anticipated to run for president, declared he would outlaw the curriculum in January, citing the draught version. It was not historically correct, according to state education officials, and it was against the law regarding how racial topics are taught in public schools.
The assault on the AP course turned out to be the start of a much bigger plan of action. On Tuesday, Governor DeSantis revealed a plan to reform higher education that, among other things, would make Western civilization classes mandatory in order to end what he called “ideological conformity.”
Another warning sign for the College Board was the potential for additional opposition: a tracking initiative by the National Center for Policy Analysis found that more than twenty states had implemented some form of legislation opposing critical race theory.
The College Board’s president, David Coleman, stated in an interview that none of the adjustments were made in response to political pressure but rather for pedagogical reasons. He declared, “At the College Board, we cannot rely on political leaders’ statements.” He said that “the involvement of academicians” and “long-standing A.P. ideals” were responsible for the adjustments.
A.P. courses have always been built on primary materials, according to him, and during the course’s initial test this school year, the board got comments that the secondary, more theoretical sources were “very thick” and that students interacted with them more.
According to Mr. Coleman, “we experimented with a variety of things, including assigning secondary sources, and we found that many problems developed as we did.” For the majority of people, “I think looking directly at people’s experience is what is most startling and powerful.”
The controversy surrounding the A.P. course involves more than just the material covered in a high school course. The College Board’s choice to attempt to develop a curriculum covering one of the most contentious topics in the nation—the history of race in America—may have all but guaranteed conflict. Education is at the focus of many vitriol-filled partisan debates. The disagreements over the curriculum serve to highlight the fact that the United States is a nation that cannot come to a consensus on its own.
The College Board appeared to avoid the politics in light of them. The information on Africa, slavery, reconstruction and the civil rights struggle is substantially unchanged in the revised 234-page curriculum framework. The study of modern issues, such as Black Lives Matter, affirmative action, gay life, and the reparations debate, is, nevertheless, devalued. The topics are merely provided as alternatives for a necessary research project and are no longer included in the test.
In a reference to regional laws, even that list “may be improved by regional states and districts.”
Roderick Ferguson, a Yale professor who has written about queer social movements, Kimberlé W. Crenshaw, a Columbia law professor whose work is hailed as “foundational in critical race theory,” and Ta-Nehisi Coates, an author who has argued for reparations for slavery, are among the writers and academics who have been banned. Bell hooks, the author who influenced conversations about feminism, race, and class, is also no longer with us.
The American educational system is heavily reliant on AP tests. When applying to colleges, students take courses and exams to demonstrate their academic prowess. Students who achieve a sufficient score on an AP exam are typically granted college credit by four-year institutions and universities. A.P. classes were taken by more than a million public high school graduates in 2021.
However, the controversy surrounding the exam raises concerns about whether the modified African American Studies course achieves its goal of imitating a college-level course, which often requires students to evaluate secondary sources and engage in divisive themes.
According to Chester E. Finn Jr., a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, the College Board adopted a wise strategy by making the “touchy elements” optional rather than eliminating them.
DeSantis enjoys making noise and is running for president, according to Mr. Finn. But in the 60 schools where they have been testing this, they have received input from all around. At this point, I believe it’s a strategy for dealing with the US as a whole, not simply DeSantis.
However, Professor Crenshaw, an expert in critical race theory, felt that these theoretical components were crucial to the course material.
She claimed that the AP course “is a corrective, it’s an intervention, it’s an enlargement.” “And it cannot ignore intersectionality, it cannot exclude critical thinking on race if it is loyal to the aim of telling the genuine history.”
She discussed the curriculum in an interview before the final version was made public, although she had seen an early form that featured a now-omitted mention of her widely read journal article “Mapping the Margins.” Florida objected to the term “intersectionality,” which Ms. Crenshaw coined in the late 1980s and which she claimed was the cornerstone of critical race theory. It describes the way different types of inequality frequently coexist.
When she learned that the Florida Department of Education had chosen to emphasize concepts like intersectionality, Black feminism, and queer theory, Ms. Crenshaw claimed she was astounded. “There are women in African American history, too. Not only straight, either. Not only the middle class, but she also added. It must tell our collective story.
In a statement published on Tuesday in Medium, more than 200 academics who teach African American studies denounced Governor DeSantis’ meddling with the AP course. He was accused of seeking to “intimidate the College Board into acquiescence” and of censorship.
Exams for A.P. have sparked tension in the past. After being criticized for dubbing Ronald Reagan “bellicose” against the Soviet Union and giving a Native American chief greater prominence than Ben Franklin, a U.S. History teaching guide had to be changed in 2014.
The Black Panthers and the Black is Beautiful movement, according to Ilya Shapiro, director of Constitutional Studies at the Manhattan Institute, are issues that he has no objections to having covered because “that’s clearly part of what was America.”
He argued that the original curriculum should have included names of conservative or independent Black thinkers like John McWhorter, Shelby Steele, and Thomas Sowell if it was intended to embrace theory.
There are suggestions that the College Board is implicit including some of the content under scrutiny. The term “intersectionality” is mentioned eight times in the curriculum’s draught but just once in the updated version as a possible project topic.
However, the idea appears to have crept into the required course material under the heading of essential knowledge, with a mention of the authors Gwendolyn Brooks and Mari Evans who “explore the lived experience of Black women and men and show how their race, gender, and social class can affect how they are perceived, their roles, and their economic opportunities.”
Since A.P. courses are a significant source of income for the nonprofit College Board, acceptance of the new curriculum is crucial. According to the Board’s tax-exempt filing, more than $490 million of the more than $1 billion in program service income it received in 2019 came from “AP and Instruction.”
The draught curriculum is being tested by teachers, who report that it has been well-liked.
Nelva Williamson, a teacher at Houston’s Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy, a public all-girls school with a predominance of Black and Hispanic students, said, “I hosted an interest meeting after lunch and my room was packed, standing room only.”
As each teacher adjusts and fine-tunes a new curriculum, Sharon Courtney, a high school teacher who is piloting the course in New York State, said she was frustrated by the criticism.
You’re criticizing an unfinished project, she said. Wait till I make the supper, I said.