The Advanced Placement system is corrupt to the core. It’s part of the privatization of public education, a “non-profit” that exists to create huge profits for itself by getting parents or school districts to pony up for expensive tests that many students are not prepared to take. Then, the AP grading system ensures that a certain percentage of these students will get college credit for these exams no matter how unprepared, based on the important principle of making sure next year’s parents will see it worth their while to pony up even more cash for a largely valueless educational experience.
But all of that can fly under the radar for a long time. It gets much harder when it effectively lets Ron DeSantis and Chris Rufo decide what acceptable content is for its courses.
After heavy criticism from Gov. Ron DeSantis, the College Board released on Wednesday an official curriculum for its new Advanced Placement course in African American Studies — stripped of much of the subject matter that had angered the governor and other conservatives.
The College Board purged the names of many Black writers and scholars associated with critical race theory, the queer experience and Black feminism. It ushered out some politically fraught topics, like Black Lives Matter, from the formal curriculum.
And it added something new: “Black conservatism” is now offered as an idea for a research project.
Well that’s just lovely. But wait for the self-serving justifications!
David Coleman, the head of the College Board, said in an interview that the changes were all made for pedagogical reasons, not to bow to political pressure. “At the College Board, we can’t look to statements of political leaders,” he said. The changes, he said, came from “the input of professors” and “longstanding A.P. principles.”
I mean, sure, the longest standing AP principle is bilking parents out of their money, so I guess if you want to call that a principle, this does fit it!
In light of the politics, the College Board seemed to opt out of the politics. In its revised 234-page curriculum framework, the content on Africa, slavery, reconstruction and the civil rights movement remains largely the same. But the study of contemporary topics — including Black Lives Matter, affirmative action, queer life and the debate over reparations — is downgraded. The subjects are no longer part of the exam, and are simply offered on a list of options for a required research project.
And even that list, in a nod to local laws, “can be refined by local states and districts.”
The expunged writers and scholars include Kimberlé W. Crenshaw, a law professor at Columbia, which touts her work as “foundational in critical race theory”; Roderick Ferguson, a Yale professor who has written about queer social movements; and Ta-Nehisi Coates, the author who has made the case for reparations for slavery. Gone, too, is bell hooks, the writer who shaped discussions about race, feminism and class.
A.P. exams are deeply embedded in the American education system. Students take the courses and exams to show their academic prowess when applying to college. Most four-year colleges and universities grant college credit for students who score high enough on an A.P. exam. And more than a million public high school students graduating in 2021 took at least one A.P. exam.
But the fracas over the exam raises questions about whether the African American Studies course, as modified, fulfills its mission of mimicking a college-level course, which usually expects students to analyze secondary sources and take on contentious topics.
A good teacher can probably work their way around this, if they really want to take a chance. Most of the students who would take such a course are likely to want to learn what this course was originally designed to do. But most teachers are very unlikely to do so. Maybe they can just show King’s one line from his one speech for a year and connect it up to every Republican talking point du jour. That will surely meet Ron DeSantis’ personal high education standards!
Happy Black History Month, where every white run institution in the nation will mouth some words about equity while deepening the reality of white supremacy.
— Erik Loomis (@ErikLoomis) February 1, 2023