WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2023
Kevin Drum says maybe not: Did the College Board adjust the contents of its new Advanced Placement course in response to criticisms or suggestions by the DeSantis administration?
In yesterday's lengthy front-page report, the New York Times seemed to suggest at several points that it did—or at least, that the "left-leaning scholars" with whom the Board worked seem to believe that it did.
HORTOCOLLIS ET AL (2/14/23): In today’s political climate, a dispute [about the contents of the course] may have been unavoidable. African American studies has roots in the civil rights and students’ movements of the 1960s. Its left-leaning scholars often see their discipline as part of an anti-racist social justice movement.
For many conservatives, the field is an example of liberal orthodoxy run amok. They have argued the very premise of it, and called for an approach to Black history that focuses on heroic figures of the past and stays away from contemporary political debates or academic theorizing.
But the College Board also hurt its own cause among supporters, by whittling away material during the months it was engaged in discussions with the DeSantis administration, according to interviews with scholars, teachers and College Board officials, as well as a review of several drafts of the curriculum.
The organization also did not tell some of its academic colleagues of those frustrating discussions—or about the significant omissions.
Now, the College Board is defending the A.P. course it has spent years developing. The nonprofit has infuriated many African American studies scholars for what they view as a stealth betrayal. And its once-heralded course is mired in dissension.
Elsewhere, similar suggestions are made. For example, here's an account of how certain elements were dropped from the proposed course:
HORTOCOLLIS ET AL: The College Board understood from the beginning that introducing African American studies could draw sparks, especially given the laws in Florida, Jason Manoharan, vice president for A.P. program development, said in an interview.
The fall 2022 pilot curriculum required a weeklong set of lessons on “Black Feminism, Womanism and Intersectionality.” Required reading included a text by Kimberlé Crenshaw, the law professor who coined the term.
As Dr. Manoharan explained the concept, the state officials were “stone faced,” he said, and he was not sure they understood him.
“I have interacted with many DOEs—this DOE acts as a political apparatus,” he said of Florida’s Department of Education, adding, “It’s not an effort to improve education.”
He said that overall, Florida had not given useful feedback about what was wrong with the course, and he had been baffled and frustrated about how to respond.
“If they had substantive issues, I would have listened to them,” he said. “I welcomed their feedback. Not because I wanted to collude with them, but because I’m a responsible person who wanted to understand if there was something legitimate that they had to say.”
Florida officials declined to comment.
Following those discussions, intersectionality gradually faded from the course.
By the final document, the term was mentioned only as an optional project topic, and there was no mention of Professor Crenshaw.
Dr. Manoharan doesn't seem to be shy about denigrating Florida officials. Stating the obvious, there is no way to assess the accuracy of his various unflattering accounts of their reactions, understandings and comments.
That said, the Times reports that various changes were made in the proposed AP course during the time of Manoharan's discussions with those Florida officials.
The New York Times seems to think that the College Board made certain changes in its course as a reaction to those discussions. In this new post, Kevin Drum says he reads the evidence a different way.
Why did the College Board make various changes to the course? We have no ultimate way of knowing, but we don't think that's the main question here.
The main question here involves the suitability of this introductory, year-long course for a wide range of American high school students. Whatever decisions it ultimately made, the College Board should have listened to criticisms or suggestions from red state sources.
It's a sign of our nation's unfortunate culture war when liberal entities seek total victory over The Others as this curriculum is drawn into place. It's a sign that we live at a time of total war, with total defeat of the Others as the ultimate tribal goal.
Based upon that lengthy Times report, a lot remains to be said about the contents of this Advanced Placement course. Above all else, we direct you to the state of total war which seems to exist on the blue side of this debate.
In comment threads and in the Times report itself, blue forces seem to be declaring a state of Total War. We seek Total Victory in this Total War over the Others, who constitute the forces of evil.
Only our own infallible outlooks deserve inclusion in this course! The viewpoints of the Others must in all ways be defeated. Let's not create an introductory course in which eager students are challenged about various possible viewpoints and told that they must decide.
Our blue tribe needs to get over itself. Unfortunately, that's a type of analytical skill which is in short supply Over Here.