The New York Times is lamenting the College Board’s revised curriculum for its course in Advanced Placement African American Studies (APAAS) – its abandonment of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and the move to make Black Lives Matter (BLM) merely an optional topic of study – both changes that suggest Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s (R) firm rejection of the radical content of the prior version significantly contributed to the new direction.
The Times reported Wednesday, the day the revised course was released:
After heavy criticism from Gov. Ron DeSantis, the College Board released on Wednesday an official curriculum for its new Advanced Placement course in African American Studies — stripped of much of the subject matter that had angered the governor and other conservatives.
The people who insist that no one would ever try to teach CRT in public schools sure are mad that the College Board is backing down on its plan to teach CRT in public schools.
— Dan McLaughlin (@baseballcrank) February 1, 2023
Among the elements from its previous version that have now gone missing, notes the Times, are the names of black scholars and writers who have promoted CRT, black queer theory, and black feminism.
What is new is the topic of “black conservatism,” now offered to students as a potential research project.
Stanley Kurtz, who has been chronicling the events leading up to the release of the new APAAS curriculum at National Review, wrote Thursday that while the revised curriculum “is still biased, with some substantial strands of radicalism left intact,” and that resolute Marxist schools, teachers, and textbook publishers are yet likely to squeeze their radical ideology into the course, still, “pretty much all of the critical race theory (CRT), and the lion’s share of socialist agitation, has been removed from APAAS.”
Perhaps the most significant contribution DeSantis has made in this case has been to stand up to the College Board’s status as the sole decider of college equivalency testing. Of course, when the College Board sets its standard for what it believes is necessary content to be learned at the college level, that vision trickles down to K-12 education as well.
“To my knowledge, until Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s recent rejection of the unrevised APAAS curriculum framework, no state had ever vetoed an AP course,” observed Kurtz, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, who often refers to the College Board as a “de facto unelected national school board,” given the amount of clout it enjoys over blue and red states alike.
In January, the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) wrote to the College Board informing that the state “does not approve the inclusion of the Advanced Placement (AP) African American Studies course in the Florida Course Code Directory and Instructional Personnel Assignments.”
“As presented, the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value,” FDOE added. “In the future, should College Board be willing to come back to the table with lawful, historically accurate content, FDOE will always be willing to reopen the discussion.”
Among its areas of “concern” in the APAAS framework the department discussed was the teaching of CRT, the justice system, and social interaction.
Florida’s Stop WOKE Act prohibits the promotion of CRT in grades K-12.
Writings for the course that were rejected by Florida included those by radical Marxist and former Communist Party member Angela Davis, and others associated with portions of the course called the “Movement for Black Lives,” and “Black Queer Studies.”
“We have guidelines and standards in Florida,” DeSantis said about the decision to reject the AP framework. “We want education, not indoctrination.”
“Who would say that an important part of Black history is queer theory?” the governor added. “That is somebody pushing an agenda on our kids. And so, when you see they have stuff about intersectionality and abolishing our prisons. That’s a political agenda.”
Education is about the pursuit of truth, not the imposition of ideology or the advancement of a political agenda. pic.twitter.com/Hete9aeHlF
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) January 23, 2023
FDOE observed as well that not only does Florida law require the study of African American history in the state’s schools, but that under DeSantis, that field of study has been expanded.
The study of African American history is required by Florida law and has been expanded under @GovRonDeSantis. Florida has robust African American instructional standards, which can be found at the link below. https://t.co/kbbwfLRC6S
— Florida Department of Education (@EducationFL) January 20, 2023
The Florida governor even appears to have won a showdown with Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker (D) who, following DeSantis’s rejection of the APAAS framework, announced he was demanding that “the role played by black queer Americans” be included in the course.
“I am writing to you today to urge the College Board to preserve the fundamental right to an education that does not follow the political grandstanding of Governor DeSantis and the whims of Republicans in Florida,” Pritzker wrote to College Board President David Coleman, who was known during the Obama era as the “architect of the Common Core Standards.”
Pritzker stated he was “extremely troubled” at the news the College Board might be surrendering its APAAS to accommodate “Florida’s racist and homophobic laws”:
I am extremely troubled by recent news reports that claim Governor DeSantis is pressuring the College Board to change the AP African American Studies course in order to fit Florida’s racist and homophobic laws.
Illinois expects any AP course offered on African American Studies to include a factual accounting of history, including the role played by black queer Americans. Illinois will closely examine the official coursework to ensure it includes all necessary history, starting with this nation’s foundation built on slavery, the Civil War where this nation reckoned with that history and the decades of rebuilding and efforts of black Americans to continue their fight for equality and equity to this day.
“I urge you to maintain your reputation as an academic institution dedicated to the advancement of students and refuse to bow to political pressure that would ask you to rewrite our nation’s true, if sometimes unpleasant, history,” Pritzker wrote to Coleman. “One Governor should not have the power to dictate the facts of U.S. history. In Illinois, we reject any curriculum modifications designed to appease extremists like the Florida Governor and his allies.”
As Kurtz noted, however, the College Board’s unit on “black queer studies” has been eliminated, as has most topics that were “filled with socialism, CRT, or some other radical perspective.”
“I don’t see how this can be viewed as anything other than a triumph for DeSantis,” he asserted. “Virtually all of the radical political agitation he has objected to — and much more of it that he hasn’t even bothered to explicitly cite — has been removed from the required sections of the course.”
Nevertheless, Kurtz – a veteran of the wars over the Common Core standards and the AP U.S. History course – admitted, the College Board “is full of tricks”:
I’ve called them out on their history of deceptive revisions repeatedly. In this case, however, the College Board’s replacements for the omitted material are significant improvements over the original curriculum. Yes, again, there is still room for mischief from radical teachers. Nonetheless, in the big picture, the College Board has capitulated to DeSantis.
“Their claim that he had nothing to do with these revisions is ludicrous,” he concluded. “DeSantis did this, and every state in the union will benefit.”
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Susan Berry, PhD is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Image “Gov. Ron DeSantis” by Gov. Ron DeSantis.