College Board revises AP African American studies after backlash

by Jacob Fuller

Chris Lieberman, FISM News

The College Board released the official framework for its new AP African American Studies course on Wednesday after conservatives, particularly Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, criticized previous versions of the curriculum for pushing far-left ideology.

“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 announcing the unveiling of the new curriculum.

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 played pivotal roles in the civil rights movement; and people of faith from all backgrounds who contributed to the antislavery and civil rights causes. Everyone is seen.

Previous drafts of the course included topics such as, “Black Queer Studies,” “Intersectionality,” and, “the case for reparations,” as well as discussions of the Black Lives Matter movement and Critical Race Theory. But in the final version, these sections are greatly reduced or eliminated altogether. Subjects dealing with contemporary controversies will no longer be required and instead are listed as potential topics for the course’s required research project.

The course is currently being piloted in 60 schools across the country. When a draft of the proposed curriculum leaked last September, conservatives panned the course as left-wing propaganda. “[AP African American Studies] clearly proselytizes for a socialist transformation of the United States, although its socialism is heavily inflected by attention to race and ethnicity,” wrote Stanley Kurtz of the National Review.

Last month, Gov. DeSantis announced that the course would be banned in the state for violating the Stop Woke Act. “We believe in education, not indoctrination,” DeSantis said of the course.

“Florida rejected an AP course filled with Critical Race Theory and other obvious violations of Florida law. We proudly require the teaching of African American history. We do not accept woke indoctrination masquerading as education,” tweeted Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz Jr. alongside a list of objectionable topics in the curriculum.

The College Board maintains that the changes were part of a standard revision process and not a response to the backlash. Dr. Kerry Haynie, a Duke professor who helped develop the course, said, “We reject any claim that our work either indoctrinates students or, on the other hand, has bowed to political pressure.” The College Board notes that the revisions were time-stamped on December 22, 2022, a month before DeSantis’ announcement that the course would be banned in Florida.

David Coleman, head of the College Board, told the New York Times that the changes were due in part to the fact that the original draft relied too much on secondary sources, whereas AP courses tend to emphasize primary sources. “We experimented with a lot of things including assigning secondary sources, and we found a lot of issues arose as we did,” Coleman said. “I think what is most surprising and powerful for most people is looking directly at people’s experience.”

But both DeSantis’ allies and critics are claiming that the changes are a win for the governor. The Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote, “The group insists that revisions were done for pedagogical reasons and completed in December, but even assuming that’s true, it’s vindication for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.”

“To wake up on the first day of Black History Month to news of white men in positions of privilege horse trading essential and inextricably linked parts of Black History, which is American history, is infuriating,” Dr. David J. Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, said in a statement. “The College Board’s decision to capitulate to Governor Ron DeSantis’ extremist anti-Black censorship demands, stripping the AP African American studies course of key content about contemporary Black history, is an insult to the lived experiences of millions of Black Americans throughout our country today.”