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College Board walks back revisions to AP African American Studies after criticism

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Less than three months after announcing revisions to its AP African American Studies course curriculum, the College Board has announced plans for further changes. The initial revisions, which took place in February, removed topics deemed controversial by some critics, including reparations, Black Lives Matter and intersectionality.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., was one of the most prominent advocates for the removal of these subjects, stating that he would not approve a curriculum that included them for use in his state. Meanwhile, Florida’s Department of Education, which rejected a preliminary pilot version of the class earlier this year, claimed it “lacks educational value” and violated a state law that bans the teaching of critical race theory.

“In the state of Florida, our education standards not only don’t prevent, but they require teaching Black history, all the important things. That’s part of our core curriculum,” DeSantis previously said. “We want education and not indoctrination.”

The College Board, which relies on state participation to administer its courses and tests, faced criticism for bowing to political pressure after the initial course revisions were revealed. In response to the subject matter removals, the African American Policy Forum helped to organize a nationwide day of protest on May 3, focused on the “freedom to teach and to learn.”

“As academics, artists, advocates, policy-makers, and concerned persons from different parts of the world, we emphatically oppose the attacks being waged on educational curricula in the United States and elsewhere against intersectionality, critical race theory, Black feminism, queer theory, and other frameworks that address structural inequality,” the African American Policy Forum said in an open letter posted on its website.

In a statement regarding its decision to make new changes to the course, the College Board said it would be “committed to providing an unflinching encounter with the facts and evidence of African American history and culture.”

The organization also acknowledged that it watered down key concepts in its aim to offer the class to as many students as possible, including those in conservative states.

“In embarking on this effort, access was our driving principle — both access to a discipline that has not been widely available to high school students, and access for as many of those students as possible,” the College Board wrote. “Regrettably, along the way those dual access goals have come into conflict. The updated framework, shaped by the development committee and subject matter experts from AP, will ensure that those students who do take this course will get the most holistic possible introduction to African American Studies.”

The College Board did not give a precise timeline for when another revised curriculum would be completed, but did say that scholars and experts would be working to “determine the details of those changes over the next few months.”

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