Advocacy groups are outraged after the Arkansas Department of Education warned state high schools not to offer an advanced placement course on African American history.
The advice from Arkansas education officials is the most recent instance of conservative legislators restricting education on racial history, sexual orientation, and other topics they label “indoctrination.”
The Arkansas Education Association (AEA), a professional organization of educators in the state, said the latest decision is of “grave concern” to its members and other citizens worried about “the abandonment of teaching African American history and culture.”
“Having this course pulled out from under our students at this late juncture is just another marginalizing move that has already played out in other states,” said a statement from AEA president April Reisma, which was shared with the Guardian.
In a statement to the Guardian, NAACP president and chief executive officer Derrick Johnson called the decision “abhorrent” and an “attempt to strip high school students of an opportunity to get a jumpstart on their college degree”.
“Let’s be clear – the continued, state-level attacks on Black history are undemocratic and regressive,” Johnson said. “The sad reality is that these politicians are determined to neglect our nation’s youth in service of their own political agendas.”
Arkansas and Florida Restrict AP African American History Course
According to the Arkansas Times, the state education department announced on Monday, the first day of the 2023–2024 school year for many Arkansas public schools, that it would not be granting credit for the AP African American history class.
On Friday, department officials informed educators by phone that the AP course would not be accepted for college credit in the same way that similar courses in other subjects are.
The department claimed that the course might be in violation of the state’s Literacy, Empowerment, Accountability, Networking, and Safety (Learns) Act, which Arkansas governor Sarah Huckabee, a Republican and former White House press secretary under Donald Trump, passed in the spring.
The Learns Act limits curriculum on a range of topics, including gender, sexual orientation, and subjects that would “indoctrinate students with ideologies, such as Critical Race Theory”.
“Arkansas law contains provisions regarding prohibited topics. Without clarity, we cannot approve a pilot that may unintentionally put a teacher at risk of violating [state] law,” the department said in a statement about the pulled course to the Arkansas Times.
Officials also stated that the state would not pay for the end-of-year exam for the course, which allows high school students to earn college credit.
According to Axios, two high schools provided a pilot version of the course last year. NBC News reported that six schools planned to offer the course this year, including Little Rock’s Central High School, the epicenter of 1957’s forced desegregation.
In January, the Florida Department of Education, under the leadership of Governor Ron DeSantis, prohibited the course from being taught in high schools in the state.
The Florida education department stated in a letter to the College Board, the nonprofit organization that oversees AP courses and other university readiness exams, that the course violated state law and “lacked educational value.
Source: The Guardian