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Tipsheet

College Board to Revise African American Studies Course Following Backlash From DeSantis

On Monday, the College Board announced that it would revise its Advanced Placement African American studies course following criticism from scholars and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). 

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To recap, in January, DeSantis announced that the state of Florida would not allow public schools to participate in the course over its “woke” and “radical” indoctrination concepts. This ignited backlash from the woke left, who claimed the decision was racist.

Shortly after, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre fired back at the governor’s decision, calling it “incomprehensible.” 

“If you think about the study of black Americans, that is what he wants to block,” Jean-Pierre said of DeSantis.  “And again, these types of actions aren’t new. They’re not new from what we’re seeing, especially from Florida, sadly.”

Reportedly, DeSantis' criticisms targeted the fact that the course included lessons on “black queer studies” and “intersectionality.” And, he added that the curriculum was "contrary to Florida law." In February, the College Board announced that it would update the course (via The Washington Post): 

Then the College Board publicly released a course plan in February that omitted or scaled back certain concepts and terms that had riled up conservative commentators. For instance, the adjective “systemic” disappeared from the plan, even though many academics and civil rights advocates say the term is essential for understanding the African American experience with racism, oppression and discrimination.

Most uses of “intersectionality” were cut. The course developers also whittled down a proposed sequence of mandatory lessons on contemporary issues to make more time for a student research paper. As a result, reparations and the Black Lives Matter movement were listed only as optional research topics.

Such changes angered or disappointed many people passionate about the field of African American studies, who feared the College Board had watered it down to assuage politicians. The College Board denied the charge. It insisted no concessions had been made behind the scenes to Florida even as officials within the organization acknowledged they were seeking to navigate a fraught political environment.

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In a statement this week, the College Board said that it is “committed to providing an unflinching encounter with the facts and evidence of African American history and culture. To achieve that commitment, we must listen to the diversity of voices within the field. The development committee and experts within AP remain engaged in building a course and exam that best reflect this dynamic discipline. Those scholars and experts have decided they will make changes to the latest course framework during this pilot phase. They will determine the details of those changes over the next few months.” 

The framework of the course will be updated by a development committee and experts from the AP program. 

“Regardless of how many students take this course, each one of those students should have access to the full breadth and beauty of this discipline,” the statement concluded. 


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