In a surprising move, the College Board revised its high school Advanced Placement pilot course in African American Studies last week to eliminate or tone down the most controversial elements.
The College Board, which creates and manages tests and associated curricula to help institutions of higher education ascertain how likely prospective students are to succeed in college, “purged the names of many Black writers and scholars associated with critical race theory, the queer experience and Black feminism” from its AP course, The New York Times reports. “It ushered out some politically fraught topics, like Black Lives Matter, from the formal curriculum.” The organization also eliminated required teachings on economic reparations based on race, and the curriculum now offers “Black conservatism” as a research project idea.
The draft curriculum announced last August drew heavy criticism for its politically charged approach to the subject. Although numerous conservative figures denounced the curriculum, mainstream media — including The New York Times, The Washington Post, NBC News, CNN, and all the other usual suspects — have concentrated their ire on Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida and characterized him as the reason the College Board bent the knee.
I am sure that Gov. DeSantis is delighted that the media have thrown him in that briar patch.
Gov. DeSantis certainly was front and center on the issue. On Jan. 19, his administration announced it would not allow the curriculum to be taught in Florida public schools. In April of last year, Gov. DeSantis signed HB 7, which bans Florida public schools from teaching that a “person is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex” and any teachings that suggest superiority of one race over another, that hard work is a racist concept, that a person can “bear responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex,” or that a child “must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress for actions, in which he or she played no part, committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex.”
At the signing ceremony, Gov. DeSantis said, “We believe in education, not indoctrination. We won’t use your tax dollars to teach our kids to hate this country,” citing the New York Times’ highly tendentious and historically shady 1619 Project as a banned curriculum.
In mid-January of this year, the Florida Department of Education sent a letter to the senior director of the College Board Florida Partnership stating, “the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.” The new curriculum appears to have addressed those concerns.
In addition, Gov. DeSantis announced last week his intention to eliminate indoctrination in state-supported higher education institutions by prohibiting public universities from using any funding for diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts; critical race theory programs; or “other discriminatory initiatives.” Speaking at the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, Gov. DeSantis said, “No funding, and that will wither on the vine. And I think that that’s very important because it really serves as an ideological filter, a political filter.”
The governor’s proposal would “specify standards and content for general education core course requirements to ensure higher education is rooted in the values of liberty and the western tradition,” Gov. DeSantis tweeted. In his speech, Gov. DeSantis also called for tenure reform because “the most significant dead-weight cost at universities is typically unproductive tenured faculty.”
Gov. DeSantis has not been entirely alone in these efforts to rein in the education establishment. “(M)ore than two dozen states have adopted some sort of measure against critical race theory,” The New York Times reported last week.
Clearly, however, it was Florida that tipped the balance: the College Board did not cave until the DeSantis administration rejected its curriculum.
What is most impressive here is how much success even a little pushback can achieve. If the College Board perceives that it needs Florida more than it wants the most radical elements of its proposed AP curriculum, that shows the power even a single state can wield.
Governors and state legislatures throughout the country should learn this valuable lesson and redouble their efforts to protect the rights of students, parents, and taxpayers against the political aims and cultural whims of the nation’s education establishment.
S. T. Karnick is a senior fellow and director of publications for The Heartland Institute, where he edits Heartland Daily News.