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Florida Man Bans AP African American Studies

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This school year, the College Board piloted a new AP course that has been in development for more than a decade across the country: AP African American Studies (APAAS). According to the College Board, “The course will explore key topics that extend from early African kingdoms to the ongoing challenges and achievements of the contemporary moment.” 

The addition of the course is part of a larger movement from both the College Board and high schools across the country to eliminate the Eurocentric curriculum taught by many courses, such as AP European History, AP World History, and AP United States History (APUSH).

Status of AP African American studies in states that restrict teaching on race
Source: Edweek, The Washington Post

APAAS has gained recent attention after the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) decided to reject the course’s pilot from being offered at any Florida public high school. Governor Ron DeSantis stated that the course was a “vehicle for a political agenda and leaves large, ambiguous gaps.”

Addressing specific units that contain Black Queer Theory, he continued, “Who would say that an important part of Black history is queer theory? That is somebody pushing an agenda on our kids. When you look to see they have stuff about intersectionality and abolishing prisons, that’s a political agenda. (…) We believe in education, not indoctrination.”

Florida officials also had concerns that the course included Critical Race Theory (CRT). One of CRT’s main tenets is the belief that race is a “social construct.” According to Britannica, one of the main stances of CRT is that oppressors, mainly white people, created race as a construct to justify the enslavement and mistreatment of other, darker-skinned individuals. 

In 2015, responding to the Republican Party’s claims that the APUSH course framework left out many topics, including “The Founding Fathers, the principles of the Declaration of Independence, and the religious influences on our nation’s history,” the College Board revised their APUSH framework to put more emphasis on American national identity and unity; American ideals of liberty, citizenship, and self-governance, and how those ideals play out in U.S. history; and American founding political leaders.

Similarly, one month after Florida rejected APAAS, the College Board released a new framework for the course outlining several changes made from the initial APAAS pilot course, mainly the removal of multiple topics that concerned the FDOE.

In a letter to the FDOE, the College Board addressed the rejection of the course and their new framework, stating, “We stand against censorship and indoctrination equally.” Furthermore, in response to claims that schools shouldn’t teach certain components of the course, the letter said, “No topics were removed because they lacked educational value. We believe all the topics listed in your letter have substantial educational value.”

The letter also included College Board’s statement on the units involving the issues brought up surrounding Black Queer Theory. “Four of the six course elements criticized in that tweet were in fact not present in the actual pilot framework we provided you in July 2022, including readings by Angela Davis and bell hooks. The tweet also objected to ‘Black Queer Studies,’ though no such topic appears in the July 2022 pilot course framework,” it said.

Currently, the College Board is using 60 schools all over the country to pilot the course. The College Board aims to use their pilot process to reduce the number of topics to a scope and sequence appropriate for teaching and learning in a single academic year. They expect the 2023-24 school year to open up the course to hundreds of other high schools across the country, with the first AP test being offered in the spring of 2024. All schools will be able to offer the course in the 2024-25 school year with an exam in the spring of 2025.

When asked about whether M-A will offer the APAAS, History Department Chair Candace Bolles said, “Once the course exits the College Board’s pilot phase, we do have a teacher who is interested in teaching AP African American Studies, and the earliest the course would be offered would be the 2024-25 school year as an elective course for juniors and seniors.”

The teacher interested, current Ethnic Studies and Modern US History teacher Chloe Gentile-Montgomery, said, “As a Black student myself, I never felt represented in my high school history classes and a major reason I became a history teacher myself was with the hopes of changing that for my own students. I felt so seen when I took my first Ethnic Studies and African American history courses in college.”

She continued, “This course is open to all students, but especially students who are interested in learning more about African American history in the U.S. while growing their historical and critical thinking skills. Students who value Black culture and activism, and who stand in solidarity with the struggles of African Americans will be a great fit for this class. I also strongly encourage all Black students to take the course to celebrate the diversity within the Black experience.”

Montgomery urged all interested students to sign up. She said, “Everyone has something to gain from learning about African American history and I am grateful there will be a course that gives students a chance to dive into that exclusively. Students will build a community with one another and learn how to be advocates for the Black community in our world, today, by having a clear understanding of the history of Black people in this country. The history of African Americans will be centered around stories of resistance and Black joy in an effort to increase these in our society today.”

Ameya is a junior in his second year of journalism. He enjoys writing stories about education, sports, and local news and politics. In his free time he enjoys spending time with friends and watching movies.

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