College Board details AP’s first African-American studies class

On the opening day of Black History Month, the College Board is making history on Wednesday by releasing details of its first Advanced Placement Class in African American Studies for high school students — a class that gained national attention after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis banned him in his state saying he is pushing a political agenda.

The year-long program was developed with input from hundreds of African American studies experts across the country, including Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the California State Board of Education; Tiffany Barber, assistant professor of African American art at UCLA; and educators at San Francisco State University, the first university to introduce a black studies department in the late 1960s.

AP courses developed by the College Board, which also administers the SAT test, are rigorous college-level courses offered to high school students who can usually earn college credit after passing the exam. The board offers 39 AP courses in subjects including biology, chemistry, art history, English literature, music theory, and computer science.

The African American studies course comes at a time when the teaching of American history, race and sexual identity in public schools has become mired in culture wars.

“This course is a seamless encounter with the facts and evidence of African American history and culture,” College Board Chief Executive David Coleman said in a press release. “No one is excluded from this journey: black artists and inventors whose achievements have been revealed; black women and men, including gay Americans, who played central roles in civil rights movements; and believers from all walks of life who have contributed to anti-slavery and civil rights causes. Everyone is seen.

The interdisciplinary classroom will be available to approximately 500 schools in the 2023-2024 school year and is designed similarly to a college course in African American studies or a related course, depending on the setting. It will explore key historical events and social movements that shape Black experiences, the diversity of African societies and their global connections prior to slavery, and contributions to African Diaspora literature and art, among other topics. .

The course has four units: “Origins of the African Diaspora”; “Freedom, Slavery and Resistance”; “The practice of freedom”; and “Movements and debates”. The course will also analyze how black migration has shaped cities, including Los Angeles. Students will be required to carry out a research project, using secondary sources, on a subject related to the course.

It was tested at 60 high schools across the country and made headlines when DeSantis and the Florida Department of Education banned its offering in the state, saying it was not historically accurate and would violate state law. On Tuesday, the governor announced plans to block state colleges from having programs on diversity, equity and inclusion, and critical race theory.

Last year, DeSantis signed a law that restricted how racism can be taught in schools and workplaces. Florida prohibits statements that define people as necessarily oppressed or privileged because of their race.

Asked about Florida’s response to the course, Coleman said the completed framework wasn’t released until Wednesday morning, but he hopes educators across the state will look at it with fresh eyes.

“We hope that with this new look, states, parents and teachers will find in it an unflinching look at the facts of African American history and culture,” he said.

The California Department of Education has faced contentious debate and scrutiny when developing its own ethnic studies framework. In 2021, California became the first state in the nation to make ethnic studies a requirement for high school students to graduate. But in other states, ethnic studies remain controversial. The course is designed to help students understand the past and present struggles and contributions of Blacks, Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, and other groups who have experienced racism and marginalization in America.

“I think it’s going to be a wonderful fit with the new ethnic studies requirement in California,” Coleman said of the new AP class.

Tyrone Howard, a professor at the UCLA School of Education, said Florida’s reaction reflected the times.

“You can’t divorce that from a lot of what’s going on in education right now around book bans, proposed legislation that’s anti-CRT,” he said, referring to critical race theory. “There is real, real resistance, in some states, to having content in our school curriculum that addresses some of the complex and ugly episodes of racial discrimination in this country.”

The AP course will be available in all secondary schools during the 2024-25 school year.

“I applaud [the College Board] for developing this course because it says we will not engage in the erasure of peoples history, we will not avoid the complex history that is the legacy of slavery,” Howard said. . This is “a big step in the right direction”.

But he anticipates a pushback within conservative California enclaves — and that it could foreshadow a politicized topic in the 2024 election.

“There will be states that wholeheartedly endorse it and states that wholeheartedly reject it,” he said. “I think it’s going to be massive because it’s part of the ongoing culture wars. There are people who think that our children shouldn’t be taught these kinds of subjects. It’s this back and forth, this arm wrestling, and I think it’s going to get ugly.

As a UCLA professor, Howard is pleased that the new AP course means more freshmen can enter colleges with a better understanding of each other’s cultures and histories.

“What we do know is that when students from all backgrounds have a solid understanding and an accurate history of the experiences, accomplishments and obstacles that different groups have gone through, you reduce stereotypes, you reduce prejudice and, in ultimately you reduce prejudice and hatred,” he said.

Barber, an assistant professor at UCLA, said the course sheds light on the origins and development of Africa and its diaspora, providing “a unique and necessary worldview.”

“Like all AP offerings, this course teaches critical thinking and writing skills as well as the essential knowledge and concepts that make up black studies,” said Brandi Waters, the framework’s lead author. “As an art historian, I am delighted that the course incorporates art objects as primary sources that reflect the formal innovations of black artists as well as their engagements with the world around them, because the stories of the art of the black world are also the stories of black intellectual thought.

Waters added that the students responded to the course with enthusiasm.

“What is most impactful is that students in this course can see themselves as moving along the continuum of history,” said Waters, who is also senior director and curriculum manager. African Americans for the College Board AP program. “They find themselves on a new course that takes a well-established field forward at a difficult time, [and they] see themselves as part of this historic trajectory.

Los Angeles Times

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