The College Board’s newly-released official framework for its Advanced Placement course on African American Studies appears to forgo several topics that caused Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to support rejecting it from Florida.
The nonprofit that oversees the Advanced Placement program unveiled its new course framework Wednesday to coincide with the first day of Black History Month. The release caps about a decade of developing a college-level course that spans the early kingdoms of Africa to today’s climate for Black Americans.
It also comes as the course has drawn political backlash in Florida, where top education officials rejected a pilot version of the course after raising objections to lessons on queer studies, reparations and abolishing prisons, all of which seem to be gone from the requirements in the new curriculum.
The nonprofit on Wednesday reiterated that no state nor district had seen the new framework before its unveiling and denied that any feedback from state officials was taken into consideration.
Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday said “I call bullshit — you are merely a puppet of Ron DeSantis” in a tweet directed at College Board CEO David Coleman that included a photo of a New York Times story about the final framework.
At least two governors, DeSantis and Democratic Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, sent letters to the College Board about the course before the final framework was released, with Pritzker warning that Illinois schools wouldn’t accept the “watering down of history.”
“… [T]his refining process, which is a part of all AP courses, has operated independently from political pressure,” said Robert J. Patterson, a Georgetown University professor who co-chaired the committee of educators who developed the course, in a statement.
A 234-page overview for the African American Studies course shows that the program covers a range of topics from the origins of the African diaspora to the slave trade and Civil Rights movement. Students who take the course would learn about the Black Panther Party and the growth of the Black middle class, abolitionists and the role Black women play in society. The new requirements will take effect when the course launches for the 2024-2025 school year.
The updated syllabus also excludes mandatory lessons on intersectionality, which is a part of critical race theory, as well as other topics Florida’s Depart of Education had called “concerning.”
Lessons on Black queer studies and movements for Black lives that were taught in the pilot didn’t make the final cut. However, those topics were listed as potential ideas for students to pursue in their 1,500-word mandatory project. Students can pick such “contemporary topics or debates” for their projects, including the Black Lives Matter movement, reparations debates, intersectionality and dimensions of the Black experience and queer life and expression in Black communities.
While the coursework has curricular and resource requirements, the AP program said it supports each school having its own curriculum that enables students to build the skills and understandings in the framework.
“This course is an unflinching encounter with the facts and evidence of African American history and culture,” said College Board CEO David Coleman in a statement. ”No one is excluded from this course. … Everyone is seen.”
More than 300 African American Studies professors from more than 200 colleges across the country consulted the AP program in developing the course framework over the past year, the College Board said, and the course refining process ended in December.
DeSantis, who said the original coursework “pushed an agenda,” claimed victory when the College Board announced that the program would be updated ahead of its release. But it’s still ultimately up to the Florida Department of Education to review the course before it can become available to students in the state.
Florida’s decision to reject the course scored national attention and sparked a beef between the state and Illinois, where Pritzker called DeSantis’ actions “political grandstanding.” Civil rights attorney Ben Crump also pledged to sue DeSantis if Florida again blocks schools from teaching the course. Vice President Kamala Harris also denounced the rejection of the course, saying recently that “every student in our nation should be able to learn about the culture, contributions, and experiences of all Americans.”
DeSantis has stood by denying the course on the heels of the state’s “Stop WOKE” law, which forbids instruction that would make someone “feel guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress” due to their race, color, sex or national origin.”
About 18 states have similar “divisive concepts” laws that restrict how educators can discuss racism, sexism or systemic inequality in the classroom. The majority of the bills were efforts to rebuke critical race theory, the study of how racism has been weaved into American laws and institutions throughout history. Most public school officials across the country say they do not teach the theory. But these states could move to follow the DeSantis administration when deciding if they’ll adopt the new interdisciplinary course.
“Our core curriculum … requires the teaching of Black history, but real Black history — I mean things that really matter,” DeSantis said on an episode of the Charlie Kirk Show podcast that aired Jan. 26. “This course had things like queer theory, it had things like abolishing prisons, intersectionality, it advocated for reparations and things.”
He continued: “That’s political activism. If that’s what you want to do on your own time, it’s a free country. But we’re not going to use tax dollars in the state of Florida to put that into our schools because it’s not trying to educate kids, it’s trying to impose an agenda on kids.”