Black history class revised by College Board after criticism
The official curriculum for a new Advanced Placement course in African American Studies downplays some components that have drawn criticism from conservatives, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who threatened to ban the course in his state.
In the framework released on Wednesday, issues such as Black Lives Matter, slavery reparations and queer life are not part of the exam. They are only included in a sample list that states and school systems can choose from for student projects.
The course is currently being piloted in 60 schools across the United States, and the official materials are intended to guide its expansion to hundreds of additional high schools over the next academic year. The college board, which oversees AP courses, said developers consulted with professors from more than 200 colleges, including several historically black institutions.
The rejection of the course by DeSantis, a Republican, has sparked a new political debate about how schools teach about race.
In January, the state issued a chart saying the course reinforces the idea that modern American society oppresses black people, other minorities and women, includes a chapter on “Black Queer Studies” that the government deems inappropriate, and articles used by critics of capitalism. The Florida Department of Education told the College Board that it would suspend the course if changes were not made.
“Because I think people want to see real academics, and they want to get rid of the political window dressing that seems to accompany all of this,” DeSantis said.
“DeSantis says he wants to take ideology out of education,” said Alan Singer, a professor of education at Hofstra University. “Well, DeSantis brings in his ideology.”
DeSantis, a possible Republican presidential nominee in 2024, said he’s blocking course in Florida because he’s pushing a political agenda.
“In the state of Florida, our standards of education not only do not prevent, but require that black history be taught all the important things. It’s part of our core curriculum,” DeSantis said at a news conference last week. “We want education, not indoctrination.”
In a written statement Wednesday, College Board CEO David Coleman said the course was “an unflinching encounter with the facts and evidence of African-American history and culture.”
“No one is excluded from this course: the black artists and inventors whose achievements have come to light; the black women and men, including gay Americans, who were central to the civil rights movements; and people from diverse backgrounds who have contributed to anti-slavery and civil rights causes. Everyone is seen,” he said.
The College Board offers AP courses from across the academic spectrum, including math, science, social studies, foreign languages and fine arts. The courses are optional. College-level students typically receive credits from their university that do well enough on the final exam.
“In addition to eliminating critical race theory and Black Lives Matter, DeSantis wants to remove the warts from the story,” Singer said.
The African American Studies degree is divided into four units: Origins of the African Diaspora; freedom, enslavement and resistance; the practice of freedom; and movements and debates.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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