MCPS considers AP African American Studies amidst political debates


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College Board is piloting AP African American Studies in 60 schools across the country, including ten high schools in MCPS. The names of the high schools which will offer the course in MCPS have not been announced yet. The two-year pilot program was developed by 300 professors and teachers of African American Studies and plans to be widely offered in the fall of 2024 for high school students. However, many states are pushing back against the curriculum, most notably Florida. 

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has stated in press conferences that he plans to ban the class from high schools in Florida, suggesting that the course is not relevant for students.

“Why don’t we just do and teach the things that matter?” DeSantis said in a press conference regarding the course. “Why is it always someone that has to try and jam agenda down our throats?”

Florida and 17 other states have laws and policies about teaching race. SMCS senior Alexis Famuyide shared her opinion of DeSantis’ thought process in his reason for being against authentic Black history. 

“Oftentimes the history that is taught in most schools is sort of white-washed in a sense and it doesn’t address all of the aspects of Black, African American, and African history in general,” stated Famuyide. “So I think part of [DeSantis’] ideology is to continue on with that and perpetuate this idea of concealing the truth.” 

Shortly after, College Board removed subjects such as Black queer studies, intersectionality, Black Lives Matter, and the scholars Kimberlé Crenshaw, Robin D.G. Kelley, bell hooks, and Angela Davis, though it is not clear whether it was due to DeSantis’ attack on the earlier pilot version.

Critics of the revised version of the curriculum argue that because of the removal of these subjects, the curriculum is missing several core themes and voices, such as the mission and global influence of the Black Lives Matter Movement and the voices of queer people of color. The organization People For the American Way created a petition to restore course content to covering contemporary Black history and not overlooking integral parts of the curriculum that were removed to appeal to political leaders’ demands. So far, 16,878 signatures were received in support of this decision. 

English teacher Mr. Sean Foster teaches AP African American Literature at Poolesville and emphasizes the importance of hearing diverse voices.

“[W]hile you may not agree with someone’s voice, hearing their voice sometimes is important, especially for some of our more fringe groups, the ones that are not your white, cis-gender males,” Foster said. “If they don’t feel like they have a voice, how are they part of this community, and that is one of our pushes: that we are a nation, we are a community and how we act is impacting everyone around us.”

Famuyide is also supportive of the class and agrees with the cultural importance of teaching African-American Studies.

“I certainly think this would be essential to promote cultural understanding, inclusivity, diversity and critical thinking skills,” Famuyide said. “[It] will also help with debunking misconceptions about Black history and about African Americans in general. [E]quipping students with that information to ensure they know the truth as opposed to what is fed in media, for instance, will help them have a better cultural awareness as they enter college and the real world.”

The class will include four units of study, titled Origins of the African Diaspora; Freedom, Enslavement and Resistance; the Practice of Freedom; and Movements and Debates.