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UPDATE: College Board scrubs website to cover up deceptions about AP African American Studies course
The College Board, the organization that produces Advanced Placement (AP) courses for high school students, recently deleted a statement defending its revisions to the new AP African American Studies course from its website. The statement, which was posted to the College Board website to combat a flurry of criticism, contained numerous false and misleading statements. The College Board has subsequently changed its narrative but is still defending the revisions, which appear to be politically motivated.
On February 1, the College Board released a revised version of the AP African American Studies course. The new curriculum excised lessons on Black queer studies, Black feminism, mass incarceration, reparations, and the Black Lives Matter movement. Also missing were important Black writers that had been included in the pilot version of the curriculum, including Kimberlé Crenshaw and bell hooks.
The revisions tracked concerns expressed weeks earlier by the Florida Department of Education. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) said the pilot version of the course was "political" and "lack[ed] educational value." The College Board faced critical media coverage reporting that it had caved to political pressure and watered down the course.
Later on February 1, the College Board released a statement rejecting this criticism, taking aim specifically at an article in the New York Times. The College Board asserted that the revisions could not have been "made in response to Florida" because "the core revisions were substantially complete… by December 22, weeks before Florida's objections were shared." It asserted that it had "time-stamped records of revisions from December 22, 2022" that substantiated its defense.
The statement was deleted from the College Board website sometime after February 9. (A cached version remains available at archive.org.) It turns out that the College Board's primary defense was a lie.
On February 7, the Florida Department of Education released a letter documenting a series of written correspondence and meetings, beginning in July 2022, where the Florida Department of Education expressed its objections to the course. On September 23, 2022, for example, the Florida Department of Education "issued a Memo to [the] College Board stating the AP African American Studies course could not be added to the Course Code Directory without revisions."
On February 8, the College Board responded with a public letter to the Florida Department of Education. It dropped the claim that it made the changes before Florida objected to the course. Instead, the College Board now claimed that it "never received written feedback from the Florida Department of Education specifying how the course violates Florida law."
But the College Board's revised claim is also misleading. Florida objected to the content of the course in at least three meetings before the revisions were made. And the topics that Florida objected to were ultimately removed from the course or made optional.
In a February 11 press release, the College Board revised its narrative again, acknowledging there were both meetings and written communications with Florida prior to the revisions. The College Board now says that there were "no negotiations about the content of this course with Florida." Of course, negotiations are not necessary when the College Board decides simply to accede to the demands of right-wing critics.
In response to a request for comment, a College Board spokesperson told Popular Information that the February 1 statement "was removed because there’s been subsequent coverage from the New York Times about AP African American Studies, and we didn’t want to create confusion about which story the response was in reference to."
But the subsequent coverage in the New York Times is dated February 13. It's unlikely that anyone would believe a February 1 statement is responding to a piece published 12 days later. Asked directly if it stood by the contents of its February 1 statement, the College Board did not respond.
In the now-deleted February 1 statement, the College Board also claimed that "[t]he fact of the matter is that this landmark course has been shaped over years by the most eminent scholars in the field, not political influence." David Coleman, the CEO of the College Board, repeated this claim in a February 1 appearance on PBS Newshour.
The public is supposed to believe that it is a coincidence that the revisions to the curriculum tracked the complaints from the DeSantis administration and others on the right. Especially in light of the new preamble to the course added by the College Board, which states that the AP "opposes indoctrination," — parroting Florida's STOP Woke Act. This is not a credible claim.
In fact, in its February 11 press release, the College Board admitted that it removed certain terms and concepts because they were "politicized in several states" and had become "political weapons." Those states certainly include Florida.
The College Board's apparent effort to appease right-wing critics has backfired. DeSantis is less concerned about the content of the AP African American Studies course than using the issue as a political cudgel. On Tuesday, DeSantis threatened to withdraw state support for all AP courses.