College Board releases African American Studies course framework after DeSantis criticism (2023)

The College Board released the official framework of a new Advanced Placement course on African American studies. It comes after criticism from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who said the initial curriculum violated a state law limiting teachings on race in public schools. David Coleman and Brandi Waters of the College Board joined Geoff Bennett to discuss the course and the controversy.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    The College Board today released the official framework of a new advanced placement course on African American studies.

    It comes after criticism from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and other Republicans. Last month, DeSantis said Florida would not participate in the new AP course, saying the initial curriculum violated the state's so-called Stop WOKE Act that limits teaching on race in public schools.

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL):

    This course on Black history, what are — what's one of the lessons about? Queer theory. Now, who would say that an important part of Black history is queer theory? That is somebody pushing an agenda on our kids.

    And so when you look to see they have stuff about intersectionality, abolishing prisons, that's a political agenda.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    We're joined now by David Coleman, chief executive officer of the College Board, and Brandi Waters, director of AP African American studies for the College Board.

    Welcome to you both.

    And, David Coleman, the College Board revised its framework for this AP African American studies course, effectively downplaying or removing some of the same information that Ron DeSantis and other Republicans criticized.

    Did the College Board change the course offering to address conservatives' concerns?

  • David Coleman, Chief Executive Officer, The College Board:

    No. The revisions were complete by the end of December, far before this public discussion.

    And what the revisions were — based only on two sources, the feedback from professors and students and teachers in the pilot course, and returning to principles that are true of every single AP course.

    I know this has become controversial and political, so I want to be more than clear. In no AP course, whether it's AP English, AP U.S. history, Japanese culture, Spanish culture, do we require a specific list of secondary articles that all students must read. So we returned to that principle.

    And so it meant that the secondary articles that were experiment within the course — so, for example, Skip Gates' essay on 40 million ways of being Black, whatever they were, were not included in what is the final official course framework.

    That's been politicized now, even though it's what we do in every AP course. We also added an in-depth project where students can explore secondary sources in more detail. And may I just say one last thing? I want to be rather clear. Students and teachers have the freedom to explore any secondary sources they wish, including all that are under discussion.

    We just stopped mandating a specific list of them, as we don't do in any AP course.

    (Video) College Board releases African American Studies course framework after DeSantis criticism
  • Geoff Bennett:

    So, to press the point, last month, Ron DeSantis, other Republicans, the Florida Board of Education said that they rejected this course because it included things like a focus on the Black reparations movement and Black queer theory.

    Looking at the course revisions, lessons on those two specific things are gone, and what's included instead, Black conservatism is now offered as an idea for a research project. There are people who will look at that and see more than a coincidence.

  • David Coleman:

    To be clear, what has been added in the course as well, just to set the record straight on the matter of gay America, is, you may have noticed, I hope, a new section, which explores the contributions of Bayard Rustin and the struggles he had as a gay leader of the civil rights movement.

    That was added, as are the contributions of Pauli Murray, who's an extraordinary figure, who contributed, essentially, as you know, to Brown vs. Board of Education, as well as later victories. There's a new section on Black lesbians and how they did not feel comfortable in either the white-led women's movement or the male Black-led civil rights movement, and the new paths they formed.

    I'm just trying to say there's a remarkable engagement with Black life and how it intersects with the gay community. So I believe we're actually having a deep misunderstanding here as to what's in the course. So I really asked you to look again. You pointed out one project on Black conservatism, which there is.

    (Video) College Board officials reveal controversial African American studies course content

    There's also a project on intersectionality and mentions of Black experience. There's also a topic on gay life in Black communities, just like you're asking me about. This course truly allows students to inquire deeply into reparations. There's another topic you may have noticed on reparations that allows students to dig deeply into the reparations movement.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Brandi Waters, this course has been in the works, it's been in development for more than a decade, as I understand it.

    What was the overarching goal in creating it?

    Brandi Waters, Director of AP African American Studies, The College Board: So when we started to explore this course over a decade ago, it was conceptualized as an African American history course.

    And we talked to a lot of different groups in higher ed to see if there was some interest in moving forward with that course. Our research showed that, in the last 10 years, this field has exploded. And the appropriate introductory course is actually one that aligns with the entire discipline, African American studies.

    So, in the last few years is really when we shifted to reimagine the course as one that reflects this field, this interdisciplinary field that's really based in rigorous source analysis and argumentation. So it's not just a history class, but it does aim to weave parts of history, geography, the arts all together, so that students really walk away with that interdisciplinary lens.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    And, Brandi, we are in a moment where the teaching of race and equity has — it's become a political minefield.

    What's your response to those who say that teaching contextualized lessons about this country's racial history, that that's inherently political? You heard Ron DeSantis say that it's not education, it's indoctrination. What's your response to something like that?

  • Brandi Waters:

    I just look to the framework, which really focuses on these primary sources.

    What's really great about this course is that we are connecting students to sources that they usually wouldn't find until they get to college. So, they have an opportunity to look at things from the Amistad case, or to slave codes, the actual written documents.

    (Video) New AP African-American Studies framework released after Florida rejected course

    So I think what's really important is that students are actually looking at materials from history. They're looking at works of art and coming to their own conclusions. But I'm sure David also has thought of this as well.

  • David Coleman:

    I just hope you will look at it and see the sweeping and in-depth account of slavery and its cruelties, which is bracing, to be honest, and fierce.

    And as it goes through unit two and unit three, nothing is historically avoided. So, if it is true that what political leaders have said — and I fear it might be — has chilled classrooms and made teachers worried, can they teach the truth, can they include gay Americans, can they include the real history that happened, this course says, yes, you can.

    This course says it's all within bounds. And it says that that historical contextualized study is a matter of fact, evidence and shared experience. And the College Board insists that that should be allowed everywhere in this country.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    David, if the Florida Department of Education rejects the revised AP African American studies course, how will the College Board respond?

  • David Coleman:

    The College Board will be very saddened by that decision to refuse to enable teachers and students to encounter the facts and evidence of African American history and culture, but we will not, sir, change this framework.

    This framework is an honest, far-reaching exploration where no one is excluded.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    There has been some suggestion that the College Board should remove all of its AP offerings from Florida if this revised course is rejected.

    (Video) The College Board releases AP African American Studies Framework

    Is that something that's in the realm of possibility? Is that something that the College Board could even do?

  • David Coleman:

    That is not something I have discussed with my board at this time.

    But I do think it would be tragic for any state. I mean this, by the way. Young people need and want terribly to encounter the truth of our country's history and to examine directly cultural achievements. And this course gives them the freedom. I want to be rather clear. They can read any author they wish. As they do their project work, they can dig into any theory they think, as spicy and daring as that is. The only limits are their own imagination, and it will count towards their AP exam score.

    This course does enable a freedom that we think is valuable.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    David Coleman is chief executive officer of the College Board, and Brandi Waters is director of AP African American studies for the College Board.

    Thank you both.

  • David Coleman:

    Thank you.

  • Brandi Waters:

    Thank you.

    (Video) Official framework for new AP African American studies course released following controversy

  • FAQs

    What is African American studies course? ›

    The College Board says African American studies is an interdisciplinary approach, with the rigors of scholarly inquiry, to analyze the history, culture, and contributions of people of African descent in the U.S., and throughout the African diaspora.

    What is the AP African American studies curriculum? ›

    The course will be dedicated solely to learning about and researching the African diaspora and is designed to elevate African-American history and education. Starting in the 2023–2024 school year, the pilot course will expand to approximately 200 schools.

    What does AP stand for in AP African American studies? ›

    1, 2023 Updated 4:54 PM PT. The College Board on Wednesday released details of its first Advanced Placement class on African American studies for high school students, but the course has drawn criticism for changing lessons and texts related to key figures and topics, including the Black queer experience and feminism.

    What is the difference between black studies and African American Studies? ›

    Black studies and Africana studies differ primarily in that Africana studies focuses on Africanity and the historical and cultural issues of Africa and its descendants, while Black studies was designed to deal with the uplift and development of the black (African-American) community in relationship to education and its ...

    What are the seven core subject areas of Black Studies? ›

    This course is designed to engage students in the study of the seven core areas of Black studies: Black History, Black Sociology, Black Religion, Black Economics, Black Politics, Black Psychology, and the humanities (Black Literature, Art, and Music).

    Why is African American Studies necessary? ›

    The value of pursuing African American studies is gaining knowledge and an understanding of the past and present situation of African-descended people in the United States. This discipline prepares students to critically examine, explore, and analyze the unique experiences of African-descended people.

    What are the new AP courses for 2023? ›

    4: The College Board will be unveiling two new AP courses in fall 2023: AP African Diaspora Studies and AP Precalculus.

    Is African American Studies a good major? ›

    Another reason why you should major in African American Studies is that you'll be able to gain a wide range of transferable skills. From critical thinking and research to communication, these skills will help you construct persuasive arguments, speak effectively in public, and interpret data and define problems.

    What is considered the hardest AP? ›

    AP Physics 1 is considered one of the hardest AP classes, covering topics like Newtonian mechanics and electrical charge and force. Students also spend about 25% of their class time performing college-level lab experiments and writing reports.

    What is a 70 in AP? ›

    Usually, a 70 to 75 percent out of 100 translates to a 5. However, there are some exams that are exceptions to this rule of thumb. The AP Grades that are reported to students, high schools, colleges, and universities in July are on AP's five-point scale: 5: Extremely well qualified.

    Is AP good for Harvard? ›

    Does Harvard Accept AP Credit. Harvard does accept AP Credit for classes in which a student earned a 5 on the AP Exam. These credits are accepted under a program called “Advanced Standing.” To qualify, students must earn a 5 on a minimum of 4 AP tests, transferring a total of 32 credits.

    What college has the best African American Studies? ›

    Best Schools for African American Studies in the United States
    • #1. Stanford University. ...
    • Yale University. New Haven, CT. ...
    • Wellesley College. Wellesley, MA. ...
    • Georgetown University. Washington, DC. ...
    • Columbia University in the City of New York. ...
    • Dartmouth College. ...
    • University of California - Los Angeles. ...
    • University of California - Davis.

    Can you get a PhD in African American Studies? ›

    The PhD program in African American Studies provides students with the historical background in the experiences of people of African descent, the analytic preparation to carry out rigorous empirical research, and the professional development to pursue careers in academia or beyond.

    What can you do with a PhD in African American Studies? ›

    The types of opportunities available to students with a PhD in Africology and African American Studies include the following careers.
    • Behavioral specialist. College professor/administrator. Community urban planner. Criminal justice lawyer. ...
    • Family/child advocate. Foreign service specialist. Political analyst. Social worker.

    What is the most popular major for Black students? ›

    Law and public policy is the top major group for African Americans with a Bachelor's degree. The highest concentrated detailed major among African Americans is in health and medical administration.

    Who is the father of Black Studies? ›

    Nathan Hare, widely regarded as the father of Black Studies, was born in Slick, Oklahoma, on April 9, 1933. He was one of five siblings. As a child, he spent some years with his aunt in Oklahoma City before returning to his family farm where he worked as a sharecropper and tenant farmer.

    What is a degree in African studies called? ›

    African American & African Studies (B.A./B.S.)

    Why are African American students still not majoring in accounting? ›

    About one-third of the students who did not choose accounting as major indicated that they nevertheless seriously considered it. The majority of these did not pursue the major because they believed that accounting was too hard and too time consuming to learn.

    What is the value of African studies in today's competitive world? ›

    Studying African history and politics gives us a deeper understanding of world history and especially of current events. For example, the profits the United States reaped from the trans-Atlantic slave trade jumpstarted our industrial revolution and laid the economic foundations of this nation.

    Why was African American Studies created? ›

    The discipline of African American Studies was birthed out of the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power Movement of the 1960s. As integration was implemented at predominantly white schools across the nation, African American students began to demand that their education reflected their history.

    What is the easiest AP class to pass? ›

    Top 10 Easiest AP Classes by Exam Pass Rate
    • Physics C: Mechanics. 84.3% 41.6%
    • Calculus BC. 81.6% 44.6%
    • Spanish Literature. 75.1% 17.6%
    • Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism. 74.4% 40.4%
    • Physics 2. 73.3% 14.0%
    • Computer Science Principles. 71.6% 10.9%
    • Psychology. 71.3% 22.4%
    • Computer Science A. 70.4% 25.6%

    What are the 2 new AP courses? ›

    The College Board has announced that they will be piloting two new AP courses in the 2022-2023 school year: AP Precalculus and AP African American Studies.

    What is the second hardest AP class? ›

    Environmental Science:

    The second hardest AP class is environmental science, with a passing rate of 53.4%. This class is often known for students underestimating the course. It's 2 hours and 40 minutes exam with 80 MCQs and 3 free-response questions.

    What do you study in African studies? ›

    The field includes the study of Africa's history (pre-colonial, colonial, post-colonial), demography (ethnic groups), culture, politics, economy, languages, and religion (Islam, Christianity, traditional religions). A specialist in African studies is often referred to as an "africanist".

    What is the goal of African American Studies? ›

    The core objectives of the African American Studies Department are to interrogate the multiple dimensions of race, slavery and colonialism, and their continued political, social and cultural significance.

    What jobs can you get with a degree in African American Studies? ›

    Jobs Directly Related to the Field of African and African American Studies
    • University Professor.
    • University Administrator.
    • High School Teacher.
    • Historian.
    • Guidance Counselor.

    What good is a degree in African American Studies? ›

    A Bachelors degree in Africana Studies prepares students interested in history, policy, sociology, culture, entertainment, language, law, foreign affairs, and education, among many others, with the skills to become outstanding, productive citizens within their communities, the U.S. and global societies.

    What is another name for African American studies? ›

    Though it is now referred to as AAAS, the department has undergone a series of name changes, including Afro-American Studies and Afro Studies since its inception.

    What can I do with a PhD in African studies? ›

    The kinds of careers that one may expect with a PhD in African Studies may include opportunities with government agencies and non-governmental organizations providing research and aid in the region.

    What are the three basic areas of focus of the Black Studies mission? ›

    These three areas of development are in keeping with and reflect the three areas of focus for the larger mission of the Black Studies discipline: cultural grounding, academic excellence, and social responsibility.

    Who created African American Studies? ›

    The department at Brandeis was one of the first. Nathan Hare, a professor at San Francisco State University, in 1968 founded the first Black Studies program, which, a year later, became a full-fledged department. Over the next five years, black studies was introduced at more than 600 colleges.

    What do most Black college students major in? ›

    • Psychology and Social Work. Health.
    • Business. Social Sciences.
    • Computers, Statistics, and Mathematics. Communications and Journalism.
    • Physical Sciences. Biology and Life Sciences.
    • Industrial Arts, Consumer Services, and Recreation. Education.
    • Humanities and Liberal Arts. Architecture and Engineering.
    • Arts.

    What is the hardest degree to get in America? ›

    Introducing the 13 Hardest College Majors
    • #8: Biochemistry or Biophysics. ...
    • #7: Astronomy. ...
    • #6: Physics. ...
    • #5: Cell and Molecular Biology. ...
    • #4: Biomedical Engineering. ...
    • #3: Aero and Astronautical Engineering. ...
    • #2: Chemical Engineering. ...
    • #1: Architecture. Average Hours Spent Preparing for Class Each Week: 22.20.
    Feb 10, 2021

    What percentage of black people have a bachelor's degree? ›

    Roughly four-in-ten African-born Black adults ages 25 and older (41%) have a bachelor's degree or higher as of 2019, while roughly a quarter (23%) of Caribbean-born Black adults in the same age range have earned at least a bachelor's degree.

    What percentage of Black males have a bachelor's degree? ›

    These numbers have grown steadily in recent years. If we break the data down by gender, we find that 24.9 percent of African American men and 30.8 percent of African American women over the age of 25 had obtained at least a bachelor's degree.

    What is the percentage of African Americans with master's degrees? ›

    Master Race
    Master RacePercentages
    Hispanic or Latino16.5%
    Black or African American9.5%
    2 more rows
    Sep 9, 2022

    What is the most useful degree to study? ›

    The STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) are typically thought to be the most useful studies to pursue. They are still highly in demand, but other areas should not be discounted.


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