College Board, which is responsible for Advanced Placement (AP), courses offered in schools across the country, announced that it has changed the course framework for its new AP African American Studies course (APAAS).
Florida Governor. Ron DeSantis moved to stop the state of Florida from teaching the course. The course was being offered as a trial to only a few schools in the country. The course would be offered in 60 schools this school year. It would then be expanded to nearly double the number of schools next year and made available to all schools by the following school year.
DeSantis claimed that the course was written by DeSantis, and used several writers from the Critical Race Theory movement of education as sources for some required reading.
The course framework was the first draft. It was clear that the three units were primarily focused on the history and cultural movements of African-Americans living in the United States. The fourth and final unit was devoted to modern-day Black movements and sociological research of niche studies of Black academic theory and thought.
The New York Times reports today that the course framework has been significantly reworked since the beginning of the controversy.
Many Black scholars and writers associated with Black feminism, critical race theory, and the queer experience were expelled by the College Board. It removed some controversial topics like Black Lives Matter from the formal curriculum.
It also added something: “Black conservatism” can now be offered as a research topic.
The College Board announced the A.P. The College Board announced the A.P. course in August. It clearly believed that it was providing a class that was time-bound. This was acknowledged by prominent scholars such as Henry Louis Gates Jr. at Harvard as a recognition of the importance and value of African American studies. The course was meant to be open to all students from diverse backgrounds but a draft that was leaked to conservative publications such as The Florida Standard or National Review quickly became a political hot topic.
DeSantis, however, and conservatives are to blame for the overhaul. However, such a move wouldn’t have been made if College Board had not seriously considered that the course might have been flawed.
David Coleman, head of the College Board, stated in an interview that all changes were made for pedagogical purposes and not to comply with political pressure. He said, “At The College Board we can’t look at statements of political leaders.” He said that the changes were due to “the input from professors” as well as “longstanding A.P. principles.”
He stated that feedback from the students about the secondary sources was received during the first test of the course this school year. Students were more connected to primary sources which, he stated, have been the foundation of A.P. courses.
As someone who taught AP courses, I found that the original framework didn’t only offer a CRT perspective but was biased in favor of one viewpoint and did not provide any other perspectives. AP courses are designed to provide foundational courses in a subject area. This helps to prepare advanced students for college-level work.
Although APAAS is academically rigorous, it was designed pedagogically to encourage students to draw their own conclusions and challenge themselves to think critically. It seems that the overhaul is more open-ended. Students can draw their own conclusions, and have honest and constructive debates on the material, rather than being taught by IbramX. Kendi or others.
While I support more sociological teaching in the classroom (especially in AP social science courses), the original APAAS framework wasn’t the best way to do it. This new framework is both academically and structurally sound and could be very useful for high school students.