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College Board Denies DeSantis' Role in Changing 'African-American Studies' AP Course

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) looks to have won another cultural battle when it comes to the problematic curriculum included in an AP African-American Studies (APAAS) course, though the College Board appears loath to let him take any credit. On Wednesday morning, the College Board announced that it had made changes, though its president, David Coleman, denied any politics were involved. "At the College Board, we can't look to statements of political leaders," Coleman told The New York Times.

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Coleman is quoted as saying:

David Coleman, the head of the College Board, said in an interview that the changes were all made for pedagogical reasons, not to bow to political pressure. “At the College Board, we can’t look to statements of political leaders,” he said. The changes, he said, came from “the input of professors” and “longstanding A.P. principles.”

He said that during the initial test of the course this school year, the board received feedback that the secondary, more theoretical sources were “quite dense” and that students connected more with primary sources, which he said have always been the foundation of A.P. courses.

“We experimented with a lot of things including assigning secondary sources, and we found a lot of issues arose as we did,” Mr. Coleman said. “I think what is most surprising and powerful for most people is looking directly at people’s experience.”

According to the report, the ideas of Critical Race Theory (CRT), queer theory, and black feminism were taken out, as were topics on Black Lives Matter (BLM). "Black conservatism" is also being offered as a research project idea. 

It may not be worth getting too excited over just yet, though:

There are hints that the College Board is embedding some of the disputed material, without being explicit about it. “Intersectionality” is cited eight times in the draft curriculum, but only once in the new version, as an optional topic for a project.

But the concept seems to sneak into required course content, under the heading of essential knowledge, referencing the writers Gwendolyn Brooks and Mari Evans, who “explore the lived experience of Black women and men and show how their race, gender and social class can affect how they are perceived, their roles and their economic opportunities.”

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When it comes to language such as "hints" and "seems to sneak into," it's worth reminding that the course content had been shrouded in secrecy, despite how it had already been piloted in 60 schools, as Guy covered in his coverage about the course. 

Despite how the College Board claimed it wasn't looking "to statements of political leaders" over the changes, that it's willing to make changes to make sure the curriculum is in compliance with Florida law was slammed by the left. 

The Times report, for instance, amplified the political ramifications, particularly in that DeSantis is expected to run for president, rather than focus on acknowledging concerns that the curriculum violated Florida state law. 

After the announcement had been made, The Hill ginned up the politics involved, covering how "College Board slammed over changes to African American studies course." 

The outrage was palpable, as it appears some believe schools ought to be places that impose this queer theory on students:

“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,” David J. Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, said in a statement.

Johns said the College Board had “capitulated” to DeSantis’s “extremist anti-Black censorship” and that the new course is an “insult to the lived experiences of millions of Black Americans” across the nation, including their ancestors and their legacy. 

“The assault on my existence feels like gaslighting,” he said. “The distortions of fact-based truths and suppression of how beautifully diverse Black people have built this country for free should infuriate everyone who purports to care about democracy.”

“The lives, contributions, and stories of Black trans, queer, and non-binary/non-conforming people matter and should not be diminished or erased,” he added. “Black history has always been queer. You cannot teach Black history while erasing members of our community and the contributions made to our community and this country.”

Prominent LGBTQ+ Black figures include Bayard Rustin, who, as a key adviser to Martin Luther King Jr., helped organize the March on Washington; renowned author and essayist James Baldwin, known for novels including “Another Country” and “Giovanni’s Room”; and Marsha P. Johnson, a trailblazing transgender activist.  

Florida state Sen. Shevrin Jones (D), the state’s first openly gay senator, said these course changes are the result of DeSantis, who is weighing a 2024 presidential run, “ginning up culture war after culture war.”

“This is part of a larger war on our very ability to think, question, and engage in our democracy,” Jones said in a statement to The Hill. “It is a national attempt to redirect how students learn.” 

“The techniques of distortion, denial, and distraction are all part of the right’s dangerous efforts to shape public perceptions and undermine trust in the truth,” he added. “The people deserve better.”

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As Guy predicted in his coverage last month, the left has reacted with ferocious calls of racism, including and especially from MSNBC's Joy Reid, who has slammed DeSantis while covering the topic multiple times over the past few weeks. During one show, for instance, she claimed that the governor wanted a pro-slavery kind of curriculum.

Attorney Ben Crump also held a press conference last week threatening a lawsuit against the governor over the course, though that was after the College Board had already announced it was willing to make changes. 

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre slammed the governor's move during a press briefing last month, even though she emphasized the Biden administration "does not dictate any curriculum for local schools." Nevertheless, she thought it was worth adding that the decision was "incomprehensible" and launched into ranting about the Parental Rights in Education Act, claiming, "Florida currently bans teachers from talking about who they are and who they love." 

More recently, for Wednesday's edition of RealClearPolitics, Becky Pringle's opinion piece for USA Today was featured, claiming, "Black history is American history. DeSantis is stealing our students' freedom to learn it." Pringle is the president of the National Education Association (NEA), the largest union in the country. 

Townhall has reached out to Gov. DeSantis' office for comment, which says, "Florida Department of Education is currently reviewing the newly released AP African American Studies framework for corrections and compliance with Florida law." This piece will be updated should further comment come in from the department. 

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"Ron DeSantis" and "College Board" have been trending on Twitter as a result of the news. 

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