Let the College Board do its job on African American Studies
Educators and historians, not politicians, should have the final say on the content of the new Advanced Placement course in African American history.
Here’s something sensible people should agree on: Keeping politics out of education.
Unfortunately, we’re seeing the opposite scenario play out right now, on the national stage, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ politically motivated ban on an Advanced Placement course in African American Studies.
Last week, as the Sun-Times’ Tina Sfondeles reported, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker jumped into the fray with a letter to the College Board warning that Illinois would reject any course revisions made to appease DeSantis. As the Florida Department of Education put it, the course was deemed “inexplicably contrary” — make what you will of that turn of phrase — to Florida law.
In DeSantis’ world, that means somewhere in the course there’s a mention of gay people, or Black Lives Matter, or reparations, or maybe ‘critical race theory’ or something else that DeSantis has decided to rail against to get right-wing votes.
Some observers will point to all of this as little more than a foreshadowing of 2024: DeSantis has made clear he intends to run for president, while Pritzker’s name has been floated as a potential candidate should President Joe Biden decide not to run.
What’s really at stake here is education.
So let the College Board do its job, as it has for years with dozens of other AP courses now being taught in thousands of classrooms. Including in Florida, though DeSantis until now has never objected, as far as we can tell.
If you’re not familiar with the AP program, here’s some essential facts: The nonprofit College Board now offers 38 AP courses, each modeled on a comparable introductory college course and designed by college faculty and experienced AP teachers. Each course takes several years to develop and undergoes revisions before being finalized. Courses are regularly audited — teachers submit their proposed course syllabus for review by college professors — and designed to allow high school students to earn college credit, depending on their performance on the final course exam.
A new AP course can only launch if colleges and universities commit to awarding credit for it. More than 200 institutions have already committed to do so for the African American Studies course, which will release its finalized curriculum Feb. 1.
Pritzker rightly called out DeSantis on his bogus complaints. The College Board, we hope, will stick to its guns so that educators and historians, not politicians, have the final say on course content.
A new course on Black America’s history will be a welcome addition to the AP lineup.
Without that history, America’s story is incomplete.
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