Feb 3, 2023 - News

Arkansas educators plan to review revised AP African American Studies

Illustration of two people divided by a school notebook, one black student pointing one while the white student looks up with arms on her hips

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The College Board on Wednesday released the curriculum for its new Advanced Placement African American Studies course, excluding some of the content that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) had criticized in recent weeks.

Driving the news: Before the revisions were announced, Arkansas' Division of Elementary and Secondary Education asked the board for information about course content — a reaction to Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders' executive order to "prohibit indoctrination and critical race theory" in the state's public schools.

Why it matters: Arkansas' Department of Education's concern and Desantis' outrage over the curriculum underscores the ongoing battles against critical race theory — a topic often conflated with teachings on systemic racism, Axios' Erin Dorherty and Ivana Saric write.

Reality check: There's no indication the college-level framework of critical race theory is taught in any Arkansas K-12 public school.

Context: The Advanced Placement course is in pilot phase, being taught at 60 U.S. districts this school year. Only two schools in Arkansas — Little Rock Central High and The Academies at Jonesboro High — offer the class.

What they're saying: "AP African American Studies does not violate [Sanders'] executive order by any stretch of the imagination," Ruthie Walls, a Central High teacher, told the student-run Tiger News Online this week.

  • The course doesn't "teach CRT. I just teach history. I don't add anything, I don't take anything away. History will stand by itself," Walls told the Tiger News.

Between the lines: The College Board's revised curriculum, effective for the 2023-24 school year, does not require teaching on topics including Black Lives Matter or the case for reparations, two topics opposed by DeSantis.

  • The "reparations debates in the U.S./the Americas" is listed as a sample project topic on the curriculum but is not a required lesson plan, nor is it part of the final exam.
  • The curriculum on slavery, reconstruction and the civil rights movement remains relatively unchanged.

The bottom line: "We will review the information, including the recent changes, and assess the course at the end of this year’s pilot to ensure students are taught factual history and that participation articulates into college credit that is beneficial to students," a spokesperson for the education department told Axios in an email.

Go deeper: Revised curriculum ... Key cuts from the AP's African American Studies curriculum

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