OPINION: College board should not give into revisionist history

If history cannot be taught completely, it should not be taught at all. Fla. Gov. Ron DeSantis refused to implement College Board’s new Advanced Placement (AP) African American Studies course unless it was reworked, but College Board should not have given in to this request as it rewrites history and contributes to the larger issue of erasing Black history in America. Removing these topics causes teachers to teach an incomplete history that goes against the purpose of the course. 

The College Board is a non profit organization that prepares students for college through its standardized tests and curriculum. The College Board worked on the course since March 2022 and has continued to make changes as it is tested in a certain number of schools via CBS News. On Feb. 1, the official curriculum of the course was modified to exclude the topics DeSantis disagreed with.  

DeSantis refused the course after passing the Individual Freedom Act that banned Critical Race Theory in Florida public schools. DeSantis said Florida schools are allowed to teach Black history but claimed the topics that AP African American Studies was originally set to cover are a part of a political agenda and “lack educational value,” via CNN.. 

Topics the class included were Black feminist literary thought, intersectionality and activism, Black struggle in the 21st century, movements for Black lives and Black queer studies. Now, rather than being a part of the curriculum, College Board has listed them as the suggested end-of-year topics. 

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker wrote a letter to the College Board and said they should not give in to DeSantis’s request to change the course because it would falsely represent our nation’s history. 

“I urge you to maintain your reputation as an academic institution dedicated to the advancement of students and refuse to bow to political pressure that would ask you to rewrite our nation’s true, if sometimes unpleasant, history,” Pritzker said. “One governor should not have the power to dictate the facts of U.S. history.” 

Attorney Ben Crump stands with three high school students who plan to sue Fla. Gov. DeSantis over ban of AP African American Studies course. (Alicia Devine | Tallahassee Democrat via AP )

Redesigning this course to please DeSantis would be pretending as though these parts of African American history do not exist or did not occur. 

Erasing history in high school settings has the potential to create a dangerous slippery slope as these students could grow into adults who may not believe the history actually happened. 

Professor Hilary Conkin works in the department of teacher education and said teachers should be able to talk about the country’s collective past with all the good and bad parts. Conkin said while it would be possible to teach history without topics involving critical race theory, it would not give students a whole picture of history. 

“Particularly for students whose identities are reflected in the aspects of history that they are trying to remove, it becomes really detrimental, potentially damaging to not see,” Conklin said, “One of the things I talk about a lot in my classes is the importance of seeing yourself reflected in history. It’s essential for young people’s mental well-being as well as their historical understanding.” 

College Board’s AP program is designed to give high students the chance to learn and get credit from rigorous, college-level courses. Shying away from important and integral topics such as intersectionality and feminist literature takes away from the complex, well-rounded education these courses are made to offer. 

DePaul senior Jaylen Grigsby said he took 10 AP courses in high school, and that he does not understand why courses such as AP European History and AP United States History are allowed but AP African American Studies is not. 

“I think this whole thing is really silly,” Grigsby said. “Expecting the College Board, who is already busy with SATs, to change their whole curriculum is insane. What he wants to change is out of his own hate and bias against the groups.” 

When the College Board considered changing the course, they should have made the decision that would best benefit students and their education. 

Students benefit most from being offered a complete view of the history of the country they live in. Modifying history to hide certain parts is harmful to young people because they would not be able to learn from the mistakes of the past. 

DePaul junior Jana Simovic said removing course content from AP African American Studies would not be the right way to go about teaching history because it would give a skewed view of events. 

“It really wouldn’t be education if it’s not broad and if it’s not inclusive and intersectional for everyone,” Simovic said. 

The College Board will continue to roll out the course across the U.S. until 2024. During this time, they should reconsider this curriculum and add back these topics that are necessary for a full view of history.