The controversy over the AP curriculum is about more than just the content of a high school class. Education is at the center of nonpartisan debate, and the College Board’s decision to create a curriculum that includes one of the most charged subjects in the country — the history of race in America — may have all the guaranteed controversy. If anything, the arguments over the curriculum underscore that America is a country unable to accept its own story, particularly the complicated history of black Americans.
In the light of politics, the College Board seemed to stay out of politics. In its revised 234-page curriculum structure, the content on Africa, slavery, Reconstruction, and the Civil Rights Movement remains largely the same. But the exploration of contemporary topics, including Black Lives Matter, incarceration, queer life and the debate over reparations, is downplayed. The subjects are no longer part of the examination and are simply offered in the list of options for the required research project.
Even that list, according to local laws, “may be refined by local states and counties.”
Among the fired writers and scholars was Kimberley W., a law professor at Columbia; Included are Crenshaw, who calls his work “the foundation of critical race theory”; Roderick Ferguson, a Yale professor who has written about queer social movements; and Ta-Nehisi Coates, author who made the case for reparations for slavery. Khan, too, has bell hooks, the Writer Shaped debates on race, feminism and class.
AP exams are deeply embedded in the American education system. Students take courses and tests to demonstrate their academic ability when applying to college. Most four-year colleges and universities offer college credit to students who score well on the AP exam. More than one million public high school students graduating in 2021 have taken at least one AP exam.
But confusion over the test raises questions about whether the African American studies course has been reformed and is fulfilling its purpose of mirroring a college-level course that typically expects students to examine secondary sources and take on controversial topics.
Chester E. Finn, Jr., a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, said the College Board has come up with a smart strategy by making “touch areas” optional, not eliminating them.
“DeSantis wants to make noise, he’s running for president,” Mr. Finn said. “But they’re getting feedback from all over the 60 schools that have previewed it. Not just DeSantis, but I think it’s a way to deal with America at this point. Some of these things they might want to teach in New York but not Dallas. Or San Francisco but not St. Petersburg.