AP African American Studies: None dare call it 'systemic'
The new Advanced Placement African American studies course was revised after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called it anti-racist "indoctrination," but College Board officials claim it was too "dense" for students -- not too controversial.
However, "systemic" and "womanism" are out, reports Nick Anderson in the Washington . "Intersectionality" is down from 19 mentions in the first draft to one, while "reparations" and "incarceration," each with 15 mentions in the first draft, also fall to one apiece. Kimberlé Crenshaw, a leading critical race theoretician, is gone, but Colin Powell goes from zero to three mentions. Martin Luther King, Jr. almost catches up with Malcolm X.
I'd never heard of "womanism," which refers to Black feminism. "While feminism focuses strictly on gender discrimination, womanism opposes discrimination against women in the areas of race, class, and gender. . . . Womanism recognizes the inherent beauty and strength of Black womanhood and seeks connections and solidarity with Black men."
Officials in Arkansas, Virginia, North Dakota and Mississippi are reviewing the course, report Laura Meckler and Hannah Natanson, also in the Washington Post. Eighteen states restrict teaching "anti-racist" ideas, such as that the U.S. is a racist country, that racism is systemic or that White students are "privileged" and should feel guilty about it.
“AP African American Studies does not violate [the governor’s] executive order by any stretch of the imagination,” Ruthie Walls, a veteran social studies teacher at Little Rock Central High, told Tiger News Online, the school’s student newspaper. “I just teach history. I don’t add anything, I don’t take anything away. History will stand by itself.”
DeSantis also calls for teaching "facts." It's surely disingenuous. History is not a bunch of undisputed facts, and, if it were, there wouldn't be time to teach all of them. You need an idea of what's important and interesting to students, and how they might analyze what they're learning.
There "is a long and complex series of debates about the role of slavery and race in American classrooms, writes Henry Louis Gates Jr., who consulted on the AP course, in the New York Times.
He is the director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard.
Any good class in Black studies seeks to explore the widest range of thought voiced by Black and white thinkers on race and racism over the long course of our ancestors’ fight for their rights in this country. In fact, in my experience, teaching our field through these debates is a rich and nuanced pedagogical strategy, affording our students ways to create empathy across differences of opinion, to understand “diversity within difference,” and to reflect on complex topics from more than one angle. It forces them to critique stereotypes and canards about who “we are” as a people and what it means to be “authentically Black.”
The AP African American Studies course includes a research paper, which can deal with a variety of topics, as well as the traditional end-of-course exam. Students can pursue intersectionality or womanism.