The organization overseeing Advanced Placement courses and college entrance exams went after Florida Republicans on Saturday for spreading misinformation about its new African American Studies course for political gain.
Last month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced that the Florida Department of Education would reject the new course because it included topics about race that he and other conservatives have pushed to erase from public schools. In its pilot phase, the course covered topics like mass incarceration and reparations.
The law known as the Stop WOKE Act that Florida Republicans passed last year has led to an anti-Black movement in the state’s schools, where educators are now virtually banned from teaching students about racism and its role in American history. Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz called the new AP course “woke indoctrination masquerading as education.”
“We deeply regret not immediately denouncing the Florida Department of Education’s slander, magnified by the Desantis administration’s subsequent comments that African American Studies ‘lacks educational value.’ Our failure to raise our voice betrayed Black scholars everywhere and those who have long toiled to build this remarkable field,” the College Board said in a statement released Saturday.
On the first day of Black History Month, the College Board released the course’s official curriculum, which no longer included many of the topics Florida Republicans had denounced, such as the Black Lives Matter movement and notable Black authors like bell hooks, Kimberlé Crenshaw and Ta-Nehisi Coates. The decision of what to include drew widespread backlash from scholars and the public, but the board claimed the curriculum was determined without regard to politics and was not influenced by DeSantis.
“We should have made clear that the framework is only the outline of the course, still to be populated by the scholarly articles, video lectures, and practice questions that we assemble and make available to all AP teachers in the summer for free and easy assignment to their students,” it continued. “This error triggered a conversation about erasing or eliminating Black thinkers. The vitriol aimed at these scholars is repulsive and must stop.”
The College Board said topics like the Black Lives Matter movement and mass incarceration were optional topics in the pilot phase and that the board’s “lack of clarity allowed the narrative to arise that political forces had ‘downgraded’ the role of these contemporary movements and debates in the AP class.”
“In Florida’s effort to engineer a political win, they have claimed credit for the specific changes we made to the official framework,” the College Board said. “In their February 7, 2023, letter to us, which they leaked to the media within hours of sending, Florida expresses gratitude for the removal of 19 topics, none of which they ever asked us to remove, and most of which remain in the official framework.”
Florida officials claimed the College Board was in frequent contact about the new course’s content, implying that the state’s Education Department influenced the board to make certain changes to the course. The College Board disputed the claim on Saturday, asserting there were no negotiations about the course with Florida or any state, “nor did we receive any requests, suggestions, or feedback” except for emails containing inflamed rhetoric that Republicans have publicly aired about education on racism.
“This new AP course can be historic — what makes history are the lived experiences of millions of African Americans, and the long work of scholars who have built this field,” the College Board said. “We hope our future efforts will unmistakably and unequivocally honor their work.”