Advanced Placement African American Studies course debuts at 60 high schools

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The College Board has announced it will begin offering an Advanced Placement (AP) African American Studies course at 60 anonymous high schools across the US this fall, according to CBS News.

The AP program, which gives high school students the opportunity to take college-level courses before graduation, currently covers 38 subjects, including English literature and composition, U.S. government and politics, statistics, and history of art.

The AP African American Studies course is the College Board’s first new offering since 2014, according to TIME, and will cover more than 400 years of African American history. The curriculum will cover many subjects, including literature, political science and geography.

This summer, teachers involved in the pilot program met at Howard University—a historically black institution—to review the course framework and prepare for launch.

Marlon Williams-Clark, a Florida State University schools social studies professor, taught one of the first courses in a state that has banned the teaching of critical race theory in K-12 public institutions.

“You can tell there is a thirst [students] they need to get that knowledge,” he told CBS News’ Elaine Quijano and Lana Zak. “I think this lesson will be the precursor to other stories about … marginalized people.”

As for why AP European history classes have been offered for years without an African-American counterpart, Williams-Clark said, “What we have to understand is that history is told from the perspective of the victor.”

“I’m very proud of the College Board for taking this step and the work they’ve done to create this course. It’s really historic, but it’s also something that’s sorely needed,” he added.

Henry-Louis Gates, Jr., one of the nation’s foremost experts on the history of African American history, helped develop the AP African American Studies program. He told TIME that the classroom “isn’t a CRT. It’s not [New York Times’] 1619 Project. It is a mainstream, rigorously vetted, academic approach to a vibrant field of study, half a century old in the American academy and much older, of course, in historically black colleges and universities.”

In a statement to CBS News, the College Board said it has been working on this course for nearly a decade and that it “is designed to provide high school students with an inspiring, evidence-based introduction to African American Studies.”

The course will be offered in 200 schools next year, before being offered to all interested U.S. high schools starting in the 2024-25 school year. The College Board says the phase-in will give colleges and universities time to establish accreditation policies that will allow students to apply those course credits toward higher education requirements.

The new course comes at a controversial time for racial education in America. A report by PEN Education found that 137 “educational mandate” bills — which the organization defines as “state legislative efforts to limit teaching about topics such as race, gender, American history, and LGBTQ+ identities in K–12 and in higher education”— have been introduced in 36 states this year. That’s more than double the number of bills introduced last year, when 22 states introduced 54 bills. Six of the seven bills passed this year specifically included race as an affected educational issue.

Last year, dozens of Republican senators, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, wrote a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona criticizing the Biden administration’s proposed priorities for teaching different American history courses in schools, one of which was titled, “ Projects That Incorporate Racially, Nationally, Culturally, and Linguistically Diverse Perspectives on Teaching and Learning.”

According to the senators, the proposed priorities “double down on divisive, radical and historically dubious buzzwords and propaganda”.

“Americans have never decided that our children should be taught that our country is inherently evil,” the letter read.

While the general public cannot yet view the curriculum itself, the College Board plans to post the entire course outline on the AP Program website in the spring of 2024.

In a statement, Trevor Packer, the senior vice president of AP and Instruction at the College Board, said the class “will introduce a new generation of students to the amazingly rich cultural, artistic and political contributions of African Americans.”

“We hope it will broaden the call for Advanced Placement and inspire students with a fuller appreciation of American history,” he added.

“CBS Evening News” headlines for Wednesday, August 31, 2022

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