By Gauri Patel
On Feb. 1, the College Board released a revised, official curriculum for its new Advanced Placement African American Studies course, stripped of many topics that concerned conservative politicians and commentators, according to NPR.
This revision comes after Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida rejected a pilot version of the course for high school students in early January. In a letter sent to the College Board from the Florida Department of Education (FDOE), state education officials claim the course is a violation of state law and should not be taught in schools.
“As presented, the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value,” reads the letter.
According to the Miami Herald, the state had concerns with topics such as Black Queer Studies, Black feminism and the Black Lives Matter movement, which were removed from the formal curriculum. The College Board also removed the names of several Black scholars, activists and writers associated with critical race theory, a controversial subject due to opponents’ fear that it actively encourages discrimination.
The New York Times published an article in which they claim that the revisions to the curriculum were made to appease the DeSantis administration.
The College Board released a statement refuting these claims from the New York Times article that it removed references to “the gay experience” and Black feminism, saying, “Today’s New York Times piece about the official AP African American Studies framework is a gross misrepresentation of the content of the course and the process by which it was developed.”
Kerry Haynie, a member of the curriculum development committee for the College Board, reaffirms the curriculum was not changed in response to criticism from the De Santis administration. Haynie, a professor of political science at Duke University, is one of 16 high school teachers and college professors on the AP African American Studies Development Committee.
Haynie co-published an open letter with another committee member, Teresa Reed, Dean of the School of Music at the University of Louisville, in which they reject allegations made by a New York Times article that the curriculum indoctrinates students or claims that the College Board has bowed to political pressure.
“To be clear, despite the claims from various quarters, no state or district has yet seen these materials, let alone influenced our deliberations and decisions about what topics to include,” the letter says, referring to FDOE’s criticism of the course.
According to the College Board statement, there are time-stamped records of the revisions being substantially complete by Dec. 22, weeks before the FDOE announced their objections.
Though the College Board maintains that changes were not made in response to the objections by the state, it acknowledges that there was a reduction in the “breadth” of the modified framework, according to NPR. The modifications that were made were part of a larger revision process with feedback from a 60-city pilot program.
Yet, the new curriculum has not been celebrated by all. Civil rights groups, labor unions and educators condemn the revisions, saying that the College Board should reconsider its censorship of the course, according to NPR.
Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, a labor union, says she is disappointed with the changes. In a Twitter post, she criticizes the involvement of politics in education, claiming that is what DeSantis attempted to do in this situation.
Students at the College have a similar opinion about this issue.
Ailya Khan, a freshmen political science major, said, “I believe it is completely inappropriate for a private establishment such as College Board to execute cuts on their curriculum due to political influence, as the only outcome of this is that the extent of American education is limited, as well as the freedom for young minds to form their own opinions.”
In Florida, the fight to restrict how race is taught in public schools began in June 2021, when the Florida state Department of Education banned the teaching of critical race theory in classrooms. The new measures adopted would supposedly serve students with facts and prevent indoctrination of the students, according to the Associated Press.
Florida is not the only state that has signed or is considering signing into law bills that would limit what is taught about American history. According to Politico, in March 2021, a bill was proposed by New Jersey Republicans that would ban the teaching of critical race theory in public schools even though the subject is currently not required by the New Jersey Student Learning Standards. Nonetheless, the state does require diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) instruction in the classroom.
AP African American Studies is set to be offered in all U.S. high schools beginning in 2024, including New Jersey.
“The AP Program is focused on our long-established processes for creating compelling, meaningful college-level coursework,” stated the statement released by the College Board, “and in creating a historic course in African American Studies that will make generations of students better informed than they are today.”