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Davis, California

Monday, June 24, 2024

The College Board is watering down African American Studies

AP African American Studies course is a positive step, but contemporary issues must not be omitted


By CLAIRE SCHAD — cfschad@ucdavis.edu 


In recent weeks, the College Board has been under scrutiny for the new Advanced Placement (AP) course, African American Studies, which is currently being piloted at 60 schools across the country. 

Most notably, Florida Gov. Ron Desantis’s administration criticized the new curriculum for “lack[ing] educational value” and violating the state’s Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees (W.O.K.E.) Act, which works to prohibit teachings of critical race theory and similar ideas in Florida schools.

The new course is set to be introduced in hundreds of additional high schools next year, and access is expected to expand to all schools in the 2024-25 school year, when the first official AP test in the subject will be held.

The framework of the course is separated into four units: “Origins of the African Diaspora,” “Freedom, Enslavement, and Resistance,” “The Practice of Freedom” and “Movements and Debates.” Additionally, it requires a final research project on a relevant topic of the student’s choosing. 

The introduction of AP African American Studies would offer a much-needed deviation from the Eurocentric and misleading view that is often taught in many U.S. high school social studies courses. A portion of the curriculum is set to focus on African history prior to European interaction; a concept that is frequently omitted or skimmed over in other AP social science courses. This addition would provide a more comprehensive and accurate understanding of African American history.  

Since Desantis’s original remarks on the curriculum, some of the most controversial aspects have been removed, however, the College Board has stated that this change was not caused by political influence. Omitted topics include: intersectionality, the Black Lives Matter movement, Black feminism and issues surrounding the Black LGBTQ experience.

By eliminating many of the contemporary issues of race, the AP course will fail to fully promote a conversation about the existence of racism and oppression as it still exists today. Additionally, this exclusion will perpetuate the myth that anti-Black racism only exists in the past.

Too often in AP curricula, contemporary issues fail to be addressed. In my experience, many AP courses, such as AP U.S. History, brush over or do not include the events of the past 20 or 30 years. It is important to note, however, that this may be due to a lack of funding for current textbooks and materials in some school districts, such as my own, where the textbooks I received were often older than I was. 

Nevertheless, by not discussing contemporary events and movements, students may fail to make important connections between the past and present. This ability to highlight relationships between events occurring over time is critical to developing historical thinking skills, as defined by the College Board

While it is understandable that the curriculum has undergone revisions throughout the pilot period, it is disappointing that many relevant and current concepts have been abandoned. American high school students should receive a complete and comprehensive education representative of all student backgrounds. The addition of the AP African American Studies course would be a step in the right direction, but the curricula must be comprehensive.


Written by: Claire Schad — cfschad@ucdavis.edu 


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