By Raylee Foster | Staff Writer
Waco schools currently intend to include the AP course on African American Studies that was recently blocked by the state of Florida late January 2023, Dr. Deena Cornblum, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction with Waco Education, said.
“Waco ISD does intend to include the AP African American Studies course in possible 2022-2023 high school course offerings later this school year to gauge student interest,” Cornblum said via email.
On Jan. 23, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the state will block a new AP course on African American Studies, stating that the course is part of a political agenda as opposed to an educational opportunity. However, according to one of the course’s designers, it is intended to provide a broader view of American history.
The Florida Department of Education said in a press release on Feb. 6 that the state rejects the installation of the course into the curriculum because its teachings are in opposition to the state’s law. The department, which requires African American education as a part of its curriculum, said the proposed course does not meet the standard of its education.
“The proposed course, which runs contrary to state law, clearly has a component that does nothing to advance the teaching of Black history, but only the political agenda of a small minority,” the press release read.
Dr. Ronald Johnson, associate professor of history at Baylor, was among the 300 scholars who helped design the AP course. He said their intention was to educate students on the parts of American history that many basic history courses do not cover. In addition to this, Johnson said their goal was to give students the opportunity to learn about others’ American experience.
“The AP African American Studies course is a great way to introduce high school students with a college-level understanding and engagement with African American studies in ways that they have not gotten before,” Johnson said. “We worked really hard to design a course that would introduce people in high school to these principles of understanding being Black in the United States.”
Johnson said incorporating this education opportunity in high school classrooms is important and poses no threat as a method of persuasion. The course designer’s intention was to give high school students the ability to obtain foundational, broad information of American history before they get to college, and it has been done in certain Baylor student’s education before.
“There are people that arrive at Baylor that are ready because they’ve had an educational system that has prepared them for that and I think if several students can be prepared that way, why not all students?,” Johnson said.
Because the class is AP, it is designed for higher level students to prepare them for college. It is an elective course, not a requirement. Johnson said this class will allow students to engage in deeper conversations. Johnson said the current generation of college students wants to have these conversations, but are not being prepared for them before college.
“It’s unfortunate because when you all get to college, in those freshman classes, [educators] have to do so much work catching you all up that sometimes it isn’t until your junior year, when you’re in your twenties, before you’re able to sit down and have real deep discussions,” Johnson said.
The course, which is currently only available at 60 schools, is predicted to be available in all schools by the 2024-2025 academic year, according to College Board.
Changes were made after DeSantis’ opposition to the course. However, these alterations had been in motion prior to the politician’s remarks, co-chair Dr. Robert J. Patterson, professor of African American Studies at Georgetown University, said.
“Since its inception, the development of the AP African American Studies course has been an ongoing, iterative process … and this refining process, which is a part of all AP courses, has operated independently from political pressure,” Patterson said.
Johnson said opposition was expected, but the course brings a strong component of American history to the field of education. He said in his personal teaching, he does not push agendas, but rather allows the literature to talk. He said learning about African American history does not taint one’s view of America, but rather adds to it.
“I don’t think a broader education about the rich, beautiful history and culture of the United States will in any way negatively affect the love, pride and passion that people have for the United States,” Johnson said. “I think they will know it better and actually see we are a great nation — not because we just keep saying we are great, but because we have had all of these issues and problems throughout our history and we have continued to become a better nation.”