Black history class revised by College Board amid criticism

Black history class revised by College Board amid criticism

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — High school senior Kahlila Bandele is used to classes that don’t address the African-American experience. Then there’s her 9 o’clock class. This week it covered topics from Afro-Caribbean migration to jazz.

The discussion in her Advanced Placement course on African American Studies touched on personalities from Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X to Jimi Hendrix and Rihanna. In her AP European History course, she said, “We don’t discuss blacks at all” — even though they were colonized by Europeans.

Her school in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is one of 60 schools across the country testing the new course, which has garnered national attention since Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis threatened to ban it in his state. The rejection has sparked a new political debate about how schools teach race.

The official syllabus for the course, released by the College Board on Wednesday, downplays some components that have been criticized by DeSantis and other conservatives. Topics such as Black Lives Matter, slavery reparations, and queer life are not part of the exam. Instead, they are just included in a sample list that states and school systems can choose from for student projects.

The college board, which oversees the AP exams, said the course revision was essentially complete before DeSantis shared his objections.

“The fact is, over the years, this landmark course has been shaped by the foremost scholars in the field, not political influence,” the organization said in a written statement.

The revised curriculum will guide expansion of the course to hundreds of additional high schools over the next academic year. College board officials said developers consulted with professors from more than 200 colleges, including several historically black institutions, and sought input from teachers who led the class.

Baton Rouge Magnet High School students were aware of the political controversy surrounding the course. But Monday’s class was filled with discussions about the Négritude and Negrismo movements, which celebrated black culture, and a painting by Afro-Asian-Latin American artist Wifredo Lam.

Afterwards, Bandele, 18, said she didn’t understand arguments that the course would indoctrinate children.

“I don’t feel particularly indoctrinated,” she said.

DeSantis, a possible Republican presidential nominee in 2024, said he’s blocking course in Florida because he’s pushing a political agenda.

“In the state of Florida, not only do our standards of education not prevent, but they require that black history be taught, all the important things. It’s part of our core curriculum,” DeSantis said at a news conference last week. “We want education, not indoctrination.”

A DeSantis spokesman said Wednesday the state Department of Education is reviewing the revised curriculum for compliance with Florida law.

Despite other assurances from the College Board, the notion that the course had been changed due to political controversy sparked fresh outrage on Wednesday. “Waking up on the first day of Black History Month to news about white men in privileged positions dealing with essential and inextricably linked parts of black history, American history, is exasperating,” said David Johns, executive director of the National Coalition of Blacks Justice.

The course was popular with students in schools where it was introduced. So many students were interested in Baton Rouge that Emmitt Glynn teaches it in two classes instead of the one he originally planned.

Earlier this week his students read selections from The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon, which explores the violence inherent in colonial societies. In a lively discussion, the students related the text to what they had learned about the conflict between colonizers and Native Americans, the war in Ukraine, and police brutality in Memphis, Tennessee.

“We’ve covered the gamut from the shores of Africa to where we are today in the 1930s, and we’re going to continue the story,” Glynn said. He said he is proud to see the connections his students made between the past and the present.

For Malina Ouyang, 17, attending the course helped fill in gaps in what she was being taught. “In this course,” she said, “I realized how much is not said in other courses.”

Matthew Evans, 16, said the class enlightened him on a variety of perspectives on Black history. He said the political controversy was just “a distraction”.

“Any time you want to try to silence something, you’re just going to make someone else want to know more about it,” he said.

The College Board offers AP courses from across the academic spectrum, including math, science, social studies, foreign languages ​​and fine arts. The courses are optional. College-level students typically receive credits from their university that do well enough on the final exam.

In Malcolm Reed’s classroom at St. Amant High School in Louisiana, where he teaches the AP class, he tries to pay attention to how the material and discussions might affect the students.

“I give them the information and I saw lightbulbs go out. I ask her, “How is this affecting you? How do you feel about learning that?’ he said. “This is new to me too, and I’m just taking it in stride. We’re not just learning history, we’re making history.”


Mumphrey reported from Phoenix. AP journalist Stephen Smith contributed to this report.


The Associated Press education team is supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The AP is solely responsible for all content.



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