AP course on Black studies revised

BATON ROUGE — After severe criticism from Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, the College Board on Wednesday released an official curriculum for its new Advanced Placement course in African American Studies — devoid of much of the issues that had angered the governor and other conservatives.

The College Board deleted the names of many Black writers and scholars associated with critical race theory, the queer experience, and Black feminism. It took some politically sensitive issues out of the formal curriculum.

These topics, including Black Lives Matter, slavery reparations, and queer life, are not part of the exam. Instead, they are just included in a sample list that states and school systems can choose from for student projects.

The college board, which oversees the AP exams, said the course revision was essentially complete before DeSantis shared his objections.

“The fact is that this groundbreaking course has been shaped over the years by the foremost scholars in the field, not political influence,” the organization said in a written statement.

The revised curriculum will guide expansion of the course to hundreds of additional high schools over the next school year. College board officials said developers consulted with professors from more than 200 colleges, including several historically black institutions, and sought input from teachers who led the class.

Students at Baton Rouge Magnet High School, one of 60 schools nationwide that piloted the course, were aware of the political controversy during the course. But Monday’s class was filled with discussions about the Negritude and Negrismo movements, which celebrated black culture, and a painting by Afro-Asian-Latin American artist Wifredo Lam.

Afterwards, 18-year-old senior Kahlila Bandele said she did not understand the arguments that the course would indoctrinate children.

[DOCUMENT: Read Revised AP Black History course » arkansasonline.com/02blackhistory/]

“I don’t feel particularly indoctrinated,” she said.

The discussion in her Advanced Placement course on African American Studies touched on personalities from Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X to Jimi Hendrix and Rihanna. In her AP European History course, she said, “We don’t discuss blacks at all” — even though they were colonized by Europeans.

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.”

A DeSantis spokesman said Wednesday the state Department of Education is reviewing the revised curriculum for compliance with Florida law.

Despite the College Board’s other assurances, the notion that the course had been changed due to political controversy caused fresh anger on Wednesday. “Waking up on the first day of Black History Month to news about white men in privileged positions dealing with essential and inextricably linked parts of black history, American history, is exasperating,” said David Johns, executive director of the National Coalition of Blacks Justice.

The course was popular with students in schools where it was introduced. So many students were interested in Baton Rouge that Emmitt Glynn teaches it in two classes instead of the one he originally planned.

Earlier this week, his students read selections from ‘The Wretched of the Earth’ by Frantz Fanon, which explores the violence inherent in colonial societies. In a lively discussion, the students linked the text to what they had learned about the conflict between colonizers and Native Americans, the war in Ukraine, and police brutality in Memphis.

“We’ve covered the gamut from the shores of Africa to where we are today in the 1930s, and we’re going to continue the story,” Glynn said. He said he is proud to see the connections his students made between the past and the present.

For Malina Ouyang, 17, attending the course helped fill in gaps in what she was being taught. “In this course,” she said, “I realized how much is not said in other courses.”

Matthew Evans, 16, said the class enlightened him on a variety of perspectives on Black history. He said the political controversy was just “a distraction”.

“Any time you want to try to silence something, you’re just going to make someone else want to know more about it,” 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 Malcolm Reed’s classroom at St. Amant High School in Louisiana, where he teaches the AP class, he tries to pay attention to how the material and discussions might affect the students.

“I give them the information and I saw lightbulbs go out. I ask her, ‘How is this affecting you? rd/articles/,” he said. “It’s new to me too, and I’m just embracing it. We’re not just learning history, we’re making history.”


Last week – ahead of Wednesday’s release of the new course framework – Arkansas education officials asked the College Board for additional information about the African American Studies course. They said they did so to determine whether the course conflicted with Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ Jan. 10 executive order banning “indoctrination and critical race theory in schools.”

“We have been made aware of concerns about the content of the course,” wrote Krystal Nail, Arkansas program director in the Office of Gifted and Talented and Advanced Placement, to the College Board. “DESE leadership requests additional information on course objectives and content.”

DESE is the State Department of Primary and Secondary Education.

On Wednesday, Kimberly Mundell, spokeswoman for the department, said the state agency would adopt the newly released revised framework for the course under consideration.

“We need time to review the changes,” she said.

In her executive order, Sanders directed that the state Secretary of Education, Jacob Oliva, formerly with the Florida Department of Education, conduct a comprehensive review of the educational materials.

If items are found “contrary to the principle of equal protection under the law,” the state Secretary of Education will be directed to “amend, rescind, or amend such rule, regulation, policy material, or notice to remove prohibited indoctrination.” it says in the executive order.

Two Arkansas high schools, Little Rock Central High and The Academies of Jonesboro High, are among 60 schools running the College Board’s pilot course in African-American Studies statewide this year. The teacher of this week’s 27-student course at Central High has defended the pilot course, saying it does not violate the executive order.

Information for this article was contributed by Cheyanne Mumphrey, Sharon Lurye, and Stephen Smith of The Associated Press and Cynthia Howell of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

photo Photo taken this Monday, January 30, 2023 shows Baton Rouge Magnet High School in Baton Rouge, La. Baton Rouge Magnet High School in Louisiana is one of 60 schools across the country testing the new course, which has garnered national attention since it was banned in Florida. (AP Photo/Stephen Smith)
photo Photo taken this Monday, January 30, 2023 shows Baton Rouge Magnet High School in Baton Rouge, La. Baton Rouge Magnet High School in Louisiana is one of 60 schools across the country testing the new course, which has garnered national attention since it was banned in Florida. (AP Photo/Stephen Smith)
photo Emmitt Glynn is seen just outside his classroom at Baton Rouge Magnet High School as he teaches his second AP African American studies class on Monday, January 30, 2023 in Baton Rouge, La. Baton Rouge Magnet High School in Louisiana is one of 60 schools around the country testing the new course, which has garnered national attention since it was banned in Florida. (AP Photo/Stephen Smith)

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