Oak Park-River Forest High School. | File

Next year students at Oak Park and River Forest High will have the opportunity to take a new Advanced Placement course in African American Studies. But that course will be different than the version which has attracted the ire of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. At the Jan. 26 meeting of the OPRF school board District 200 Superintendent Greg Johnson announced that OPRF has been chosen by the College Board, which develops AP courses as well as the SAT, to be a pilot site for the new AP course next year.

This year AP African American Studies is being piloted in 60 high schools. The College Board is revising the course to remove the most controversial elements from its core framework. DeSantis has loudly criticized the current version of the course and last month the Florida Department of Education informed the College Board that it would not allow AP African American Studies to be taught in Florida public high schools. Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. described the course as “woke indoctrination masquerading as education.” 

In an interview with National Public Radio College Board CEO David Coleman said that changes to the course were being worked on well before DeSantis criticized the course. 

“We began the changes that are being discussed in September of the previous year, led by the committee that is developing the course,” Coleman said on NPR’s All Things Considered show broadcast on Feb. 3.

The revised syllabus for the course will shift readings by scholars such as law professor Kimberle Crenshaw, who developed the concept of intersectionality, writer and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates, author bell hooks, professor and activist Angela Davis, and novelist Alice Walker, to an optional part of the course framework called AP Classroom. Coleman said on NPR that the core framework of the course is going to focus on primary sources, rather than the works of scholars although the work of scholars of various political stripes will be available to students and teachers as optional resources. 

“There’s a free resource called AP Classroom, and every teacher and student in AP African American studies is going to have access to it,” Coleman said. “And we have already bought the permissions for texts like Kimberle Crenshaw’s breakthrough piece on “Mapping The Margins,” on intersectionality.”

Despite the changes to the course OPRF History Division head Amy Hill is happy that OPRF has been chosen as a pilot site for the course.

“We’re thrilled to be piloting the AP African American Studies course,” Hill said in a comment emailed to Wednesday Journal.  “Like all AP History courses, it’s built on a framework of primary sources. There are legitimate questions about why some primary sources, such as Ta-Nehisi Coates and bell hooks, were not included, but teachers have discretion over what they choose as supplementary sources. We’re confident our students will have a rich, rigorous, and engaging experience in the course.”

The terms queer studies and reparations have also been moved to the optional part of the course. 

After DeSantis criticized the course Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker said Illinois would not allow what he termed a water downed version of the course to be taught in Illinois. 

Since it will be a pilot course next year AP African American Studies will not be an official advanced placement course next year. OPRF currently offers 23 AP classes and also offers classes in African American History and African History which are not AP courses.

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