New curriculum prompts criticism

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis rejects AP African American Studies

Sarah Park, asst. news editor

After removing subjects criticized by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in the pilot course (AP) African American Studies, the College Board released the official new curriculum, reported by Anemona Hartocollis and Eliza Fawcett for The New York Times.

The revisions cut out subjects like intersectionality, reparations for slavery, feminism, the Black Lives Matter movement, criminal justice, and LGBTQ topics from the pilot course, Dana Goldstein reported for The New York Times. However, Trevor Packer, Senior Vice President of AP and Instruction for College Board, explained that the revisions were not based on political pressure but on feedback from teachers and college professors, Goldstein reported. 

South is assembling a committee of teachers led by Jeanie Logan, Instructional Supervisor of the Social Studies Department, to consider offering the AP African American Studies course at South. The committee will first investigate matters concerning the length of the course, the impact on other electives, and student interest, Logan said. Then, the committee will present the information to the Social Studies Department, where they will decide whether to move forward with the proposal, she added. Logan is opposed to the common perception that teachers want students to accept and believe all materials they present; instead, she asks for students to critically analyze the material introduced in the course. 

“It’s really unfortunate that [the course] got politicized,” Logan said. “When I look at the framework, it is a really exciting curriculum. It’s not just a standard history class; it brings together lots of different [cultures].”

Tara Tate, Social Studies Teacher, disagrees with the College Board’s new revisions and believes that the removed topics are essential to the curriculum. 

“The [topics and people] that are being questioned are fundamental to understanding the African American experience,” Tate said. “I disagree with the calls for some of those to be removed.”

After DeSantis’ decision to ban AP African American Studies in Florida, a spokeswoman for J.B. Pritzker, Governor of Illinois, announced that any local Illinois district is free to offer the course, Peter Hancock reported for Capital News Illinois. In an email statement, Pritzker wrote he felt there were significant issues with the way the College Board presented the course curriculum, Hancock reported.

“Regardless of some leaders’ efforts, ignoring and censoring the accurate reporting of history will not change the realities of the country in which we live,” Pritzker wrote. “In Illinois, we will not accept this watering down of history.”

Currently, the course covers four units: Origins of the African Diaspora; Freedom, Enslavement, and Resistance; The Practice of Freedom; and Movements and Debates, which contains an independent course project that allows students to research any topic within the field of African American studies, according to the AP African American Studies Official Course Framework, Project, and Exam Overview. Topics like intersectionality and reparations that were excluded from the official curriculum were included in the list of project topics, Goldstein reported. Logan finds great importance in the research project because it aligns with the topics that South’s Social Studies Department values and tries to teach.  

“Giving students exposure to more current theories and African American scholars [through the research project] is important,” Logan said. “That is what we try to do in [the Social Studies Department]; we present provocative ideas to students and allow [them] to grapple, comprehend, and critique them.”

Sophomore Jessica Soiresie, a member of the Black Student Union, is optimistic about the effects AP African American Studies can have on all people, not just students attending South.

“Classes like [AP African American Studies can] make people more culturally aware, possibly helping [to] get rid of negative stereotypes and microaggressions,” Soiresie said.

While Tate acknowledges that South’s U.S. History courses include African American perspectives, she recognizes the need for a class where the main focus is African American history. 

“Our U.S. History courses do a great job bringing in African American voices, but it is necessary to have a class where [African American voices are] the lens by which U.S. History is looked at as our student population continues to grow more diverse,” Tate said.