College Board purges controversial subjects from AP African American Studies course
The College Board has removed a series of controversial topics from its new AP African American Studies course after criticism led by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
A final version of the curriculum published on Wednesday either watered down or removed entirely topics linked to the Black Lives Matter movement, ‘black queer studies’ and critical race theory.
The subjects had appeared in a draft version of the course guide that surfaced last September and drew fierce criticism over claims student were being subject to woke ‘indoctrination’.
DeSantis, who has made removing ‘ideological conformity’ in education a headline of his leadership, said he would ban the course being taught in Florida’s schools.
Across four broad units, the course covers many, mostly uncontroversial topics ranging from origins of the African diaspora to slavery and civil rights.
DeSantis said the course would be banned in Florida and described the controversial subjects as a ‘political agenda’, adding: ‘That’s the wrong side of the line for Florida standards.’
David Coleman, the head of the College Board, has denied that the removal of the problematic subjects was linked to politician pressure
The contentious material mostly arose in the course’s fourth and final unit, titled ‘movements and debates’. Subheadings within the section included ‘Intersectionality and Activism’ and ‘Black Queer Studies’.
DeSantis, who’s tipped to be the Republican presidential nominee for the 2024 election, described the inclusion of the subjects as a ‘political agenda’ and added: ‘That’s the wrong side of the line for Florida standards.
‘We believe in teaching kids facts and how to think, but we don’t believe they should have an agenda imposed on them when you try to use Black history to shoehorn in queer theory, you are clearly trying to use that for political purposes.’
David Coleman, the head of the College Board, told the New York Times the removal of the problematic subjects was not linked to politician pressure.
He said the decision was made after consultation with students, professors and teachers, adding that some of the topics were ‘quite dense’.
Coleman said: ‘At the College Board, we can’t look to statements of political leaders.’
He added that the revisions to the curriculum also stemmed from ‘longstanding A.P. principles’ and added: ‘We experimented with a lot of things including assigning secondary sources, and we found a lot of issues arose as we did.
‘I think what is most surprising and powerful for most people is looking directly at people’s experience.’
Authors who’ve been removed from the course guide include Columbia law professor Kimberlé W. Crenshaw, a leading scholar in critical race theory, and author Ta-Nehisi Coates, an advocate of reparations for African Americans
The course guide was published on Wednesday with controversial subjects which appeared in a draft version either removed or watered down
Coleman has described the course as an ‘unflinching encounter with the facts and evidence of African American history and culture’.
The course is currently being piloted in 60 schools across the country. The pilot will be expanded to hundreds more institutions throughout 2023-24, before it is fully rolled out in the following academic year.
A 234-page handbook of the course still includes some mentions of the topics that drew the ire of Republicans and some Democrats.
Towards the end of the guide, a section of ‘sample project topics’ – which are described as ‘illustrative only’ – has suggestions which include: Black Lives Matter: Origins, impacts, critics; Intersectionality and the dimensions of Black experiences; and Reparations debates in the U.S./ the Americas.
The guide also now includes ‘Black conservatism: development and ideology’ as a suggested project idea – something that wasn’t included in the draft.
Authors who have been removed from the draft include Columbia law professor Kimberlé W. Crenshaw, a leading scholar in critical race theory, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, who has written about the case for reparations for African Americans.
The publication of the course curriculum comes just one day after DeSantis announced a series of reforms to Florida’s higher education system that he said were designed to remove ‘political activism’ from teaching and instead ‘promote academic excellence’.
‘There’s really a debate about what is the purpose of higher education, particularly publicly funded higher education systems,’ he said at a press conference on Tuesday.
‘You have the dominant view, which I think is not the right view, to impose ideological conformity, to provoke political activism. Instead, we need our higher education systems to promote academic excellence.’
The measures also aim to ban schools from teaching critical race theory – which teaches racism is embedded in American society and its institutions – and limit diversity, equity and inclusion programs at state colleges.
AP – or Advanced Placement – courses are optional college-level programs offered to high school students which allow them to explore advanced fields of study, earn credits and also help their college applications.