The College Board is eliminating its AP African American Studies curriculum
The AP course controversy is about more than the content of a high school class. Education is at the center of many heated partisan debates, and the College Board’s decision to try to build a curriculum covering one of the country’s most charged subjects — the history of race in America — could spark all but guaranteed controversy. If nothing else, the controversy over the curriculum underscores the fact that the United States is a country that cannot agree on its own history, especially the complex black american history
In light of the policy, the College Board appears to have abandoned the policy. In its revised 234-page curriculum, the content on Africa, slavery, Reconstruction, and the civil rights movement remains largely the same. But the study of contemporary topics — including Black Lives Matter, affirmative action, queer life and the reparations debate — is downplayed. The subjects are no longer part of the exam, but are simply offered in a list of compulsory research project options.
And even that list, in a nod to local laws, “may be refined by local states and territories.”
Deleted writers and scholars include Kimberle W. Crenshaw, a law professor at Columbia University who touted her work as “seminal in critical race theory”; Roderick Ferguson, a Yale professor who has written about queer social movements; and Ta-Nehisi Coates, the author who advocated for reparations for slavery. Also gone are the bell hooks a writer which shaped discussions of race, feminism, and class.
AP exams are deeply embedded in the American education system. Students take the courses and exams to demonstrate their academic ability when applying to college. Most four-year colleges and universities grant credit to students who score high enough on the AP exam. And more than one million public high school seniors graduating in 2021 have taken at least one AP exam.
But the scandal surrounding the exam raises questions about whether the African American studies course, as modified, is fulfilling its mission to mimic a college-level course that typically expects students to analyze secondary sources and tackle controversial topics.
Chester E. Finn, Jr., a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, said the College Board came up with a smart strategy by not removing the “sensitive parts” but rather making them optional.
“DeSantis likes to make noise and is running for president,” Mr. Finn said. “But they’ve had feedback from all over the 60 schools where they’ve piloted this. I think that’s a way to deal with the United States at this point, not just DeSantis. Some of these things they might want to teach in New York, but not in Dallas. Or San Francisco, but not St. Petersburg.
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