Why did the College Board change its course?


Also, could it be that our scholars are wrong?: A new arrival on the front became the topic of general conversation.

It also became the primary focus of our unending culture wars.

The new arrival on the front was the College Board's Advanced Placement course in African American studies. In a fascinating front-page report in this morning's New York Times, a trio of reporters describe the scene when the new AP course was unveiled:

HORTOCOLLIS ET L (2/14/23): On the second night of Black History Month, a sparkling crowd of academics and teachers gathered at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture to celebrate the unveiling of the first ever Advanced Placement course in African American studies.

But clouding the festive mood was a nagging concern. Compared with the original plans for the high school course, it now lacked, or had less of, certain topics that people at the gathering thought were essential to the discipline, like Black Lives Matter and reparations. And they wondered if the explanation was pressure from Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a probable Republican presidential candidate who has railed against what he calls “woke indoctrination” in schools.

What could explain the missing mentions of queer studies and police brutality, and the new inclusion of Black Republicans, like Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice?

The College Board was unveiling an introductory course for high school students. As the Times explained a bit later on, the Board had decided ro create a course in "African American studies" rather than "a more conventional history course."

Be that as it may! The question we would start with is this:

Do you understand why an introductory high school course in African American studies would include a unit, or perhaps a few lessons, on "queer theory?" Also, are you sure you want to see blue tribe politicians going head-to-head with Candidate Ron DeSantis over a culture war topic like that?

The lengthy New York Times report presents a fascinating overview of the process by which this new AP course was created. It seems quite clear, at several junctures, that the College Board misled the public about the extent to which they adjusted their original course in response to objections and criticisms from DeSantis World, an emerging Florida theme park.

It also seems fairly clear that the College Board misled the professors and experts with whom it had designed the original course. As to who those professors and experts are, the Times describes them in this general way at several points in the report:

HORTOCOLLIS ET AL: In today’s political climate, a dispute 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.


But after the murder of George Floyd in 2020 inspired global protest, the College Board decided to roll out an African American studies class, with a strong emphasis on United States history, politics and culture. The selection of African American studies instead of a more conventional history course was pivotal, putting the staid, mainstream College Board into close contact with a left-leaning group of scholars deeply engaged in contemporary politics.

Stating the obvious, there's nothing necessarily wrong with being a "left-leaning scholar." There isn't any obvious reason why the College Board shouldn't have consulted with "left-leaning scholars" as it developed its course.

That said, there also isn't any guarantee that groups of "left-leaning scholars," however erudite and well-intentioned, will necessarily come up with the wisest plan for an introductory course on a challenging topic—an introductory course designed for use in public high schools nationwide. 

Especially to the extent that such left-leaning scholars are "deeply engaged in contemporary politics," it's possible that their ideas, however well-intentioned, may not always trace the wisest path for a group like the College Board to follow.

In theory, the College Board's Advanced Placements courses will go into public schools in all fifty states. Especially at times of high partisanship, it's important that the Board shows good judgment in the decisions it makes—and that's especially true concerning the vitally important topics involved in this new course.

In this instance, the Board has designed a course in a field which is unavoidably rich with political overtones. Here, for example, is a slightly fuller passage than one we have posted above:

HORTOCOLLIS ET AL: In today’s political climate, a dispute 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.

In theory, this new AP course is being designed to serve public school students from all over the country. Also, to serve students who hail from families with various political views.

This AP course isn't being designed for use in a private college with a particular orientation or point of view. In the following passage, the Times describes the way the course had been designed before the College Board responded to challenge and criticism from one side of the national aisle:

HORTOCOLLIS ET AL: The February 2022 document, based mostly on a survey of college syllabuses, included Black queer studies, womanism (a form of Black feminism), mass incarceration, reparations and Black Lives Matter.

It stated that students should understand “structural racism,” “racial formation” and “racial capitalism.”

And the February document also included intersectionality, a fundamental concept in Black studies that refers to the complex ways that overlapping categories of identity—such as race, class, sex and gender—shape individual experiences of the world.

Over the following 11 months, most of those concepts gradually dropped out of the course’s required topics.

We're not saying that any part of that original design was "wrong."

We're also not saying that every part of that original design actually made good sense. Also, we're going to ask those questions again:

Are you sure you understand why "Black queer studies" and "womanism (a form of Black feminism)" should be included in an introductory high school course for use in the public schools? Are you really super-sure that you really understand that?

Also this:

Do you want to see your Democratic candidate arguing with Candidate DeSantis about the presence of those elements in the (very important) high school course our very dumb tribe would be sponsoring?

We haven't seen the original plan for the new AP course. We haven't seen the plan for the course as it has ended up.

We do know this:

Our rampaging blue tribe's "left-leaning scholars" are fully capable of losing elections all by themselves, on their own, without any help from others. We'll also offer this:

We're inclined to regard DeSantis as a demagogue and as a bully. But that doesn't mean that he's always wrong when he lands on a culture war issue. 

In any given case, he might be right—he might be disastrously right—when it comes to the politics. In this particular case, he might even be right on the merits, given the audience for whom this course is being developed. Our own tribe's scholars, such as they are, may sometimes turn out to be wrong!

There's a great deal more to be said about this fascinating report in the New York Times. We'll close by saying that the New York Times' Dana Goldstein embarrassed herself yesterday by the highly selective way she described the report on Deadline: White House.

Goldstein is on the verge of becoming one of Nicolle Wallace's "favorite reporters and friends." She picked and chose from among the contents of the report as she discussed it with Wallace, in a way we'd be inclined to regard as less than obsessively honest.

We blue tribe members get misled as we watch such cable discussions. This serves the interests of Candidate DeSantis.

The other tribe owns this nation too. With that obvious fact in mind, we close this chapter with a warning:

The corporate stars we see on cable are full of passionate intensity, but they're often deeply unwise, even demagogue-adjacent. It's also true that our "left-leaning scholars" could imaginably lose a White House election pretty much all by themselves.

As for you yourself, we ask you to riddle us this:

Can you live without insisting on constructing and denouncing the Other? A certain apparent demagogue / bully apparently plans to find out!


  1. An AP class is not an “introductory high school class” as Somerby says. It is an advanced high school class that introduces college level material that may be accepted for college credit at participating universities. It needs to cover the same ground as ann introductory college course.

    The kids who take such a class are old enough to know that gays exist.

    1. Kyle Rittenhouse might have benefitted from such a class.

    2. Rittenhouse is a psychopath, a cold blooded killer, he needed therapy, not AP courses.

      Somerby’s take here is moronic, along with a healthy dose of “ew yuck gross, gay people, black gay people, yuck gross”; having said that, studies show AP courses do not improve students’ academic ability, but they do help in getting accepted into some colleges.

    3. They also reduce tuition costs when students get college credits and can graduate early.

  2. Cecelia should study womanism, and David should study reparations.

    Introductory students should learn phonics.

    1. Anonymouse 5:48pm, I got your womanism right here.

    2. 5:48 What are the rules of reparations? It's hard to define proper reparations. Here in California, people who never owned slaves in a state that never allowed slavery are supposed to give large amounts of money to people who never were slaves.

      How about other groups? Gentiles murdered six million Jews, including relatives of mine. Does that entitle me to reparations from the gentiles? Can I expect to receive a check form @5:41?

    3. A more serious commentary: When my father came to this country, there were no reparations, no anti-discrimination laws, no affirmative action. There was no restriction on using derogatory terms for Jews or immigrants. There wasn't the kind of enormous welfare structure that we have today.

      Because of this, my father had a rough time, but I think I'm better off because of that treatment. Jews had to learn to work extra hard to succeed. They needed to establish mutual support groups to help each other. They needed to succeed in industries where they were permitted to work. They needed to do such a good job that organizations would lose out if they didn't hire Jews. They needed to start their own companies in industries that wouldn't hire Jews. AIG is an example.

      If the government had given Jews all kinds of free benefits, Jews might not have learned to be so self-sufficient. Although it sounds odd, I am grateful that religious discrimination was not prohibited when my father came here,

    4. David, the Soviet Union liberated the extermination camps, so you should pay Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine.

    5. Cecelia, now that you’ve learned womanism, you should begin your study of intersectionality.

    6. David, It isn’t a question of “Gentiles” paying reparations. “Germany started making reparations payments to Holocaust survivors back in the 1950s, and continues making payments today.” And they do that, even though not all Germans supported or even knew about the Holocaust. Did you know that?

    7. Reparations for slavery aren’t merely for the horrors they endured; it’s payment for services rendered - Black slaves built this country.

    8. The working extra hard and mutual support didn’t arise in America but were part of Jewish society due to anti-semitic mistreatment in Europe. Persecution has serious costs not just the benefits you experienced in your cushy American life without pogroms. Not everyone thrives under disability. I am told Anne Frank even died. And no, being persecuted didn’t make her a better writer.

    9. Anonymouse 6:55 pm, I’m thought that came naturally with my melanin level.

    10. Reparations is the mother of all political non starters. It could never happen. It's 100% impossible in today's political environment.

      It's worth it that it keeps the topic of slavery in the public discussion.

    11. Our current political system doesn't do anything for ordinary white people! Black people can't forget reparations.

    12. 7:21 You never offer anything of substance, just smug, snarky, and incoherent nonsense.

      Typical of right wingers, you/your circumstances have reduced yourself to two main traits: triggered and butt hurt.

      There’s no shame in you seeking help. We can’t help you much, with your toxic constitution.

    13. Let's remember, David is the real victim here. Not those whose families were systematically kept from creating generational wealth.

    14. Reparations are no big deal, plenty of precedent. As Americans, we should pay for what we purchase. We don’t believe in free lunch, we work for and earn what we acquire. Black slaves did much if not most of the work in establishing America as the superpower it has become. The only impediment to reparations are right wingers, who use race as a weapon to attain and maintain dominance.

      A White has a dollar in their pocket while a Black person has only 15 cents. America favors the Whites.

    15. Reparations are an absolute political impossibly. They will never happen.

    16. Anonymouse 7:29pm, I was responding to amusing snark.

      Who’s triggered or butt hurt?

    17. I think 7:21 is right. We can't even get Universal Healthcare because a black person would also get the benefits. There's no way this "political climate" would allow a penny of tax dollars funding a program which benefits black people, exclusively.

    18. 7:41 You, silly.

      Self awareness is your first step, take it and keep going, if you stumble it’s unlikely anyone would catch your fall (not singling you out, it’s the same for most of us) other than a well funded government safety net that, perhaps ironically, will never happen without diminishing the power of right wingers.

      Reparations are nothing new and easily possible. You can bury your head in the sand, but the only entity stopping reparations are right wingers, who’d rather suffer themselves than see Black people get even a fraction of what they have.

      7:21 never made such claim, indeed they scoff at the notion that racism even exists.

    19. Yes, that's the point. We don't pass legislation that benefits any one voting block exclusively. That's why it's a non-starter. But you're right, especially blacks.

    20. I agree that racism is used to keep progress from occurring.

      I agree it is a good strategy to make legislation universal.

      I do not agree that this is how legislation has historically been passed; much more legislation has passed based on special interests, and more often than not, those special interests align with right wing interests.

    21. That would be another reason why reparations are a political non-starter.

    22. We get it though. You'd love to play the race card. It's boring but do whatever you got to do.

    23. Anonymouse 7:56pm, I’ve said nothing at all about reparations and responded to a quip about me learning intersectionality with a quip.

      You’re shadow boxing.

    24. That’s the point — nothing but quips from you, mostly unfunny.

    25. Anonymouse 9:55 pm, tell it to Anonymouse 6:55pm.

    26. Anonymouse 9:55pm, you know why you can’t logically challenge the quipping Anonymouse 6:55pm as “always” making quips?

      Because that person is hidden behind the same cowardly anonymous designation that you hide behind.

    27. @7:34 - the opportunity to create generational wealth is a small item. The richest people in the US today -- Buffett, Musk, etc. -- earned their wealth or were married to one who did so. Jews and Asians are considerably wealthier than white (on average), even though these two groups were not in the US long enough to create generational wealth.

    28. Redlining and the racist practices of the FHA are small items to DIC while AIG is an excellent example of Jewish hard work and determination. We're not talking about the same AIG that got bailed out with 182 billion taxpayers dollars are we? Not to mention the role of Lehman Brothers and historically Jewish dominated investment firms in the worst economic crash since the depression. I think they got their reparations.

    29. Picture this: 58% of the athletes in the NFL Jewish and only 2/32 Jewish head coaches. So let's not hear any of your self indulgent blathering about how your ancestors had some kind of comparable history as an African American.


    30. @2:00 AM, 6:07 AM
      Oh, dear. These are some new, innovative brain-dead dembot confessions.

      ...thanks for the laughs, dear...

    31. David in Cal,
      Elon Musk earned his fortune the old fashioned way. He was born into it.
      I, for one, appreciate you for making such strong arguments for a 100% Estate Tax rate.

    32. "We don't pass legislation that benefits any one voting block exclusively."
      True, there has to be at least two voting blocs who benefit. Like how both the obscenely rich, AND corporations got the 2017 tax breaks.

    33. Yes, that's the way our current political system works. That's why reparations are a political impossibility. I realize advocating for them gives you a feeling of superiority.

    34. 7:00 that entry is well above your usual level of discourse. Congratulations on the progress. Maybe mom can give you a little medal.

    35. I'm not hearing here the nuts and bolts of reparations. Would they come out of the federal budget? Who would be entitled to reparations? each black person - so that in a family of 4 each member of the family would be paid? What about mixed race people - if someone had one black grandparent, does that person get a full payment?what about balck persons whose forebears emigrated to the U.S. after slavery was abolished; are emigrated within the last 20 years? And how much reparations should each qualified person receive? I've seen proposed numbers - one I saw would involve a tab of several quadrillion dollars. This committee in San Francisco recommended $5,000,000 to each black person - carried out to the entire U.S. black population, it would come to $200,000,000,000,000. Apparently that $5M figure isn't serious - it's an opening demand. Would the effect of paying reparations mean the end of "racism" as it is currently defined? what effect would it have on the economy?

    36. Like AC/ MA, I'm open to discussing reparations for black people.

  3. Another purpose of high school is to prepare students for life. Shielding them from controversy doesn’t do that.

    1. He’s trying to shield us from Lonesome Ron DeSantis.

    2. Somerby does not want Dems to win, which is why he is pushing the same failed strategy of the Establishment that led to the rise of Nazis in Germany.

    3. Anonymouse 7:08pm, the only reassurance that anyone could offer you is to keep in mind that he is not a powerful politician or celebrated public person.

    4. 7:48 when I point out the blindingly obvious, how un consequential Somerby is, as I have many times, you typically react by getting your feathers ruffled, and then huff and puff out a mean spirited comment, so it’s silly, your current stance.

    5. Anonymouse 8:00pm, NO anonymouse points out that Somerby is inconsequential.

      Anonymices are here every day exhibiting how consequential they find him to be.

      I was responding to a post where you or another anonymouse was just bemoaning his ability to usher in a Nazi takeover.

    6. Accusing Bob of ushering in a Nazi takeover is just a way for liberals to not give Ronald Reagan credit.

    7. pffftttt… Liberals can blame Bob and Reagan.

      They’re double jointed.

    8. Ronald Reagan deserves far more credit for ushering in a Nazi takeover of the USA than Bob Somerby. Reagan put in the work. Somerby is just fan-boying the Nazi takeover.

  4. I disagree that liberals lose votes when we suport traditional liberal positions, such as civil rights, equality of opportunity, respect for diversity and justice for all. I think the Others lose votes when they show their mean-spiritedness and lack of caring for the common good.

    1. The left/right divide is, for the most part, and broadly speaking, baked in early in people’s lives. No side really loses votes, it’s a matter of which side does a better job motivating people to actually vote. Right wingers have a built in advantage, since they suffer from emotional pathology, but it turns out that the left side motivates voters when focusing on all the things Somerby wants swept under the rug, like racism and gender politics etc.

  5. I credit one thing for my success. I would not be where I am today without phonics.

  6. Was fresh and fat since they started saying outtie
    Cause funks made fat from right beneath my hoodie
    The poobah of the styles like Miles and shit
    Like sixties funky worms with waves and perms
    Just sendin' chunky rhythms right down ya block
    We be to rap what key be to lock

  7. Much reporting in the Post this week underlining
    what we all knew: Trump tried to get to the truth about the election and was informed at every turn that he lost the election.
    Given the nature of Bob’s defense of Trump
    over the last several years we are left with an
    unavoidable conclusion: Bob Somerby is a
    deeply silly person.
    So yes, while MSNBC has covered the
    horrible earthquake, the terrible shooting
    in Michigan, the Ukraine War, and other
    While, like all advocacy journalism, they
    are selective with facts (sometimes, oddly,
    not to the left’s advantage; and I am
    not talking about unexpected consequences) and they carry
    all the vices of cable news on the 24 hour
    news cycle…
    When it comes to the travesty of Donald
    Trump it is Bob Somerby who cannot even
    be called a dissembler, he is far too
    dishonest and juvenile for that.
    It is the Daily Howler you cannot trust.

  8. “Our rampaging blue tribe's "left-leaning scholars" are fully capable of losing elections all by themselves”

    DeSantis made this a political issue, not the “left leaning scholars.” Should those scholars worry about Democrats getting elected when they design their courses?

    “We're inclined to regard DeSantis as a demagogue and as a bully. But that doesn't mean that he's always wrong when he lands on a culture war issue.”

    Clearly, Somerby agrees with DeSantis about the African American AP course. That doesn’t make DeSantis right about it, however.

    1. “What could explain the missing mentions of queer studies and police brutality, and the new inclusion of Black Republicans, like Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice?”

      LOVE the last line.

    2. I always wanted to shake Condoleeza Rice's hand. I never met anyone who lied to the 911 Commission before.

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