College Board: Changes to Black Studies Unrelated to Politics

07 February 2023

On February 1, the College Board released its official structure, or framework, for a new Advanced Placement (AP) African American Studies course.

Like other AP classes, the course gives high school students in the United States a chance to receive college credit depending on how they perform in the course exam.

The non-profit organization said in a statement, "The official framework has been under development for nearly a year. It replaces the preliminary pilot course framework under discussion to date..."

FILE - Emmitt Glynn teaches AP African American studies to a group of Baton Rouge Magnet High School students on Monday, Jan. 30, 2023 in Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/Stephen Smith)
FILE - Emmitt Glynn teaches AP African American studies to a group of Baton Rouge Magnet High School students on Monday, Jan. 30, 2023 in Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/Stephen Smith)

The group added that the changes have been shaped "only by the input of experts..." But some experts questioned whether political pressure led to the changes.

Political pressure from Florida

Just two weeks before the College Board released its official framework, education officials in the state of Florida announced that the course would be banned in the state's public high schools.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has made education one of his central issues. DeSantis says he opposes education that "indoctrinates" students with liberal ideas. Last year, he signed the "Stop WOKE Act," which limits how race can be taught in Florida public schools. EducationWeek reports that Florida is one of 18 states that have passed similar laws.

The Florida Department of Education said in a letter to the College Board that the course violates state law and "lacks educational value."

Florida released a list of concerns it had with the AP course. They included lessons dealing with "intersectionality." Intersectionality is the idea that social categories like race, gender, and class combine to create different levels of discrimination and privilege in society. Other objections included critical race theory and LGBTQ subjects.

What was removed?

Suneal Kolluri researches AP courses for the University of California, Riverside. He wrote in The Conversation that many of the subjects that Florida objected to are no longer in the required framework. Kolluri added, "the current discussions of race, racism and oppression have disappeared."

Kolluri wrote that writings from Kimberlé Crenshaw, a scholar who started the field of critical race theory, have been removed from the course. And subjects like Black Lives Matter, Black imprisonment and reparations are now included as optional for research.

The College Board said it did not make the changes because of political reasons. The group said in a statement that it had already made the changes to the course before Florida's Department of Education sent the letter explaining its objections.

The "course has been shaped over years by the most eminent scholars in the field, not political influence," the statement said. The board said the new framework adds new subjects not fully represented in the pilot and gives students time to study current issues.

Kerry Haynie is with Duke University's Department of African American Studies and helped develop the course for the College Board. She added in a statement: "We reject any claim that our work either indoctrinates students or, on the other hand, has bowed to political pressure."

Keeanga Yamahtta-Taylor is a Black Studies professor at Northwestern University. She rejected the College Board's claim that its decision to change the course framework was not based on politics. Given the many state laws limiting the teaching of race in schools, the College Board wanted to make the course politically safe, she said on the news program Democracy Now!

Yamahtta-Taylor said: "So their explanation that this ... has nothing to do with the political environment is completely unbelievable."

The Florida Department of Education has not said whether it will accept the current version of the course. Before the release of the new framework, a spokesperson for the agency said, "We are glad the College Board ... (expressed) a willingness to" change.

Many in Florida have pushed back against the education department's decision to block the course. Some spoke at the "Stop the Black Attack" rally in Florida's capital in January.

Juliette Hickman is a high school student who spoke at the rally. Florida lawmakers are "uncomfortable or even afraid of the course," she said. But that "does not grant them the right to take away this opportunity from thousands of students across the state."

I'm Dan Novak. And I'm Andrew Smith.

Dan Novak wrote this story for VOA Learning English with additional reporting from The Associated Press.


Words in This Story

course — n. a series of classes about a particular subject in a school

preliminary — adj. coming before the main part of something

pilot — adj. done as a test to see if a larger program, study, etc., should be done

indoctrinate — v. to teach to fully accept the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group and to not consider other ideas, opinions, and beliefs

privilege — n. a right or benefit that is given to some people and not to others

LGBTQ — n.

reparation — n. money that a country or group that loses a war pays because of the damage, injury, deaths, etc., it has caused

optional — adj. available as a choice but not required

eminent — adj. successful, well-known and respected

bow — v. to bend forward at the neck or waist as a formal way of greeting someone or showing respect

opportunity — n. an amount of time or a situation in which something can be done