College Board criticized over stand on African American studies

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(NewsNation) — After the College Board announced a revised framework for the Advanced Placement African American studies course amid criticism from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the organization faced backlash of its own from a number of politicians, scholars and activists.

“To wake up on the first day of Black History Month to news of white men in positions of privilege horse trading essential and inextricably linked parts of Black History, which is American history, is infuriating,” David J. Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, said in a statement, according to NewsNation partner The Hill. “The assault on my existence feels like gaslighting. … The distortions of fact-based truths and suppression of how beautifully diverse Black people have built this country for free should infuriate everyone who purports to care about democracy.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, sharing a story from the New York Times on Twitter, said students deserve to learn free from “political censorship.”

“The College Board’s new, pared-down curriculum — released on the first day of Black History Month — reflects increased efforts to strip students of their right to an inclusive education,” the organization said.

The new, official curriculum for the course, which was released Wednesday, downplays some components that DeSantis, and other conservatives, have criticized, such as Black Lives Matter, slavery reparations and queer life. Instead of being part of the exam students take at the end of the year for college credit, they are included only on a sample list that states and school systems can choose from for student projects.

“The assault on my existence feels like gaslighting.”

David J. Johns, executive director of the national black justice coalition

“On the first day of Black History Month, the College Board caved to the will of extremist conservatives like Ron DeSantis by censoring African American studies curriculum,” the Human Rights Campaign said. “This is an embarrassment on the part of the College Board and an attempt to erase Black history.”

However, the College Board has maintained that these changes were already in progress, NewsNation partner The Hill reports. In a news release, the College Board said that this new course framework was created with the consultation of more than 300 professors of American American studies from more than 200 colleges nationwide.

The process, the release noted, was completed in December 2022. According to the Washington Post, Florida officials rejected the AP course in January, after reading preliminary documents. DeSantis, a Republican, called it a “woke” curriculum and progressive “indoctrination.”

Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, said in an opinion column for USA Today that DeSantis blocking AP African American studies is part of a “cheap, cynical and dangerous political ploy” to drive division and chaos into public education debates.

Writing about the importance of learning about students’ diverse history and cultures, Pringle said “parents, students, educators and yes, voters, will continue to reject these efforts to distract us from their failures to provide students with what they need to thrive.”

Ron DeSantis
FILE – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gestures during a news conference, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, in Miami. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier, File)

A spokesperson for DeSantis on Wednesday said the state education department is reviewing the revised curriculum for compliance with Florida law, The Associated Press reported.

“No one is excluded from this course: the Black artists and inventors whose achievements have come to light; the Black women and men, including gay Americans, who played pivotal roles in the civil rights movement; and people of faith from all backgrounds who contributed to the antislavery and civil rights causes,” David Coleman, CEO of the College Board, said in a statement. “Everyone is seen.”

Dr. Robert J. Patterson, a professor of African American Studies at Georgetown University, said the course was designed “independently from political pressure.”

But California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, slammed the College Board, saying he calls “bullsh*t” on this claim.

“You are merely a puppet of Ron DeSantis,” he said on Twitter.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has also had harsh words for the college board, previously telling Coleman in a letter that the state will reject a course “designed to appease extremists like the Florida Governor and his allies,” The Hill reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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