In final AP African American curriculum, some topics DeSantis blasted are gone
Orlando Sentinel | By Sommer Brugal and Ana Ceballos | December 7, 2023
MIAMI — The organization in charge of Advanced Placement courses offered in high schools across the country on Wednesday released the final version of its new African American Studies course, notably leaving out some lessons Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Department of Education called out earlier this year for what they said was an effort to “push an agenda” on students.
A review of the 300-page course shows the College Board decided to exclude topics on the Black queer experience — a topic DeSantis has singled out in his criticism — and only include the Black Lives Matter movement and the reparations debate as optional, meaning they won’t be required or included on the final AP exam.
The course does, however, include Black authors and scholars flagged as inappropriate by Florida education officials, such as Kimberlé Crenshaw and Angela Davis. Ideas rejected by the DeSantis administration, such as intersectionality and race-related concepts, also remained in the curriculum.
The release of the final course curriculum sets up a potential encore of a clash between the governor, his education department and the College Board. In January, DeSantis announced the state would be rejecting the course over what he argued was the inclusion of topics the state says are foundational to critical race theory and an attempt to use Black history for “political purposes.”
The College Board’s decisions — with its inclusions and exclusions — could leave the curriculum at odds with the governor’s education agenda. While the intent is to have as many states as possible adopt the new course, College Board officials said, DeSantis and the Florida Department of Education have shown a willingness to prohibit content that they deem to be “liberal indoctrination” in schools.
The College Board maintains that none of Florida’s criticisms affected the organization’s decision-making regarding the changes or what lesson plans would be included as optional. The College Board has had no communication with the Florida Department of Education regarding the framework update, officials said.
Instead, they argued, any changes were based on feedback from students and teachers involved in the pilot program and the higher education community.
“Amid intense public debate over this course, College Board asked subject-matter experts in the AP program, scholars and experienced AP teachers to revisit the course (…) and determine the content required,” a College Board news release said. The AP program consulted with professors from “more than 200 colleges nationwide, including dozens of historically Black colleges and universities, along with dedicated high school teachers across the country.”
Several Florida public schools had signed up to pilot the course in their school for the 2023-24 school year but backed out before this school year after DeSantis criticized the course. Before the state’s feud with the College Board, a handful of public schools across the state temporarily piloted the course, including one in Miami-Dade.
This school year, just one school — a private school in Miami, Miami Country Day School — is offering the pilot in Florida.
The course is expected to officially launch nationally for the 2024-25 school year.
Despite being challenged by the DeSantis administration and state reviewers of the coursework, ideas such as intersectionality — a concept that refers to how racism, sexism and classism can overlap and affect people — and the plight of African Americans throughout history are highlighted as “essential knowledge” for students, meaning they must demonstrate mastery of the topic for the exam.
In one unit, “Freedom, Enslavement, and Resistance,” the College Board considers it essential for students to know how slavery prevented Black people from building wealth and has led to present day wealth disparities along racial lines — a concept reviewers in Florida previously said could violate state laws and rules because it “supposes that no slaves or their descendants accumulated any wealth.”
The state Board of Education earlier this year approved new academic standards for instruction about African American history that include teachings about how enslaved people benefited from their bondage.
Another unit, “The Black Feminist Movement, Womanism, and Intersectionality,” addresses the framework for understanding Black women’s “distinct experiences through the interactions of their social, economic, and political identities with systems of inequality and privilege.”
Themes such as migration and the African diaspora; intersections of identity; creativity, expression and the arts; and resistance and resilience run throughout the course.
One of the biggest changes featured in the final work, however, is the “Further explorations week,” said College Board officials.
The section, which would be taught during the final week of lessons, includes a list of optional topics, such as the Black Lives Matter movement and the reparations debate. Incarceration and abolition, Black women writers and filmmakers, African American art and culinary traditions are other topics that can be taught.