On the first day of Black History Month, the College Board sent to us a revised curriculum for their Advanced Placement African American Studies course, weeks after Florida governor and likely 2024 presidential candidate Ron DeSantis (R) said that it “lacks educational value.”
The curriculum was sent to public schools in 60 cities as part of the College Board’s pilot program for the course. School administrators were to provide feedback before the course was finalized.
Florida’s Department of Education (FDOE) rejected the curriculum in their own letter to the College Board on January 12, arguing that it “significantly lacks educational value” and imposes a “political agenda” on students.
“We believe in teaching kids facts and how to think, but we don’t believe they should have an agenda imposed on them,” DeSantis said at a Jan. 23 press conference. “When you try to use Black history to shoehorn in queer theory, you are clearly trying to use that for political purposes.”
After the DeSantis administration’s publicity stunt, the organization sent a letter to its membership on Jan. 26 saying that politicians wouldn’t have sway over the final version of the course.
“At the College Board, we can’t look to statements of political leaders,” David Coleman, the organization’s president, told the New York Times. He said that the final version was influenced mostly by “the input of progressors” and “longstanding A.P. principles.”
Much of the feedback the College Board received focused on the source material, Coleman told the Times. Some said that the more theoretical sources included in the curriculum were “quite dense,” as opposed to primary sources like biographies.
But it’s hard not to see the influence of DeSantis’s high-profile rejection of the work. This new curriculum differs from the early version leaked to the National Review back in September in many ways. While it kept most of the historical material intact, the new version mostly omits writers on modern issues like the Black Lives Matter movement and feminism. It does, however, add “Black conservatism” as an idea for a research project.
Notable writers on these issues like Kimberlé Crenshaw, a law professor at Columbia University who the school describes as a “pioneering” scholar on race studies, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, the Black journalist famous for advancing the case for reparations for chattel slavery, have been removed from the final version.
On Tuesday, a group of 200 African American studies teachers published an open letter defending the field of study from DeSantis’s politically calculated attacks.
“Contrary to DeSantis’s claims of promoting freedom in education, he is suppressing learning in his state and limiting the freedom of Florida students to choose what they can learn,” the educators wrote. “He is destroying core educational principles that should be sacrosanct to all leaders in a democratic society.”