CARLISLE, Pa. (WHTM) — The Carlisle Area School District will be one of the first in the Midstate to offer the new AP African American Studies course. The school board voted unanimously Thursday night to accept the class starting in the 2023-2024 school year.
The superintendent said the push for this started with students about two years ago, and that made a big impact on the district’s decision.
“It shows that our voices matter, and we can actually make a change,” senior Dorian Stroud said.
Stroud was one of the first students who pushed for a more diverse history curriculum.
“Our world history curriculum was just, it was very focused on just Europe,” Stroud said.
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He approached social studies program supervisor Kevin Wagner about making changes.
“Let’s talk about Asian history, African history, maybe even South American,” he said.
Stroud said Wagner was very receptive to his concerns — and those of other students. Wagner said the social studies department assembled a panel of students to further discuss what they wanted to see.
“As a social studies teacher, it really makes your heart sing that they’re taking an active, vested interest in what they’re learning in the classroom,” Wagner said.
Wagner had heard about AP African American Studies, which is being piloted in about 60 schools during the 2022-2023 school year. He said he started digging deeper into the curriculum.
“Many of the things I found in this curriculum document, I didn’t even study,” he said.
More students also spoke up, many showing interest in the course.
“We had more kids come to learn more about AP African American studies than any other AP class,” said Superintendent Colleen Friend.
Friend said that signaled to the district, approving the course would be the right decision.
“When your students come to you and they’re passionate and enthusiastic, and it’s reflective of your student body, how do you say no?” she said.
Friend also said nearly a quarter of Carlisle students identify as black or mixed race and deserve more representation in the classroom.
“Any time that students can see their own personal lives reflected in the curriculum, they’re that much more invested and interested in wanting to study it,” Wagner said.
As a senior, Stroud will not get the chance to take this course, but he said his siblings and friends will.
“Everything that we do in life, we’re not going to always be able to see the changes of it, so it’s just a thing of, if I can’t see the changes, I want to make sure that somebody else can see it,” he said.
This course has faced backlash in other states, particularly from Republican politicians. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has said previously Florida schools would not be allowed to teach the course.
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Not the case in Carlisle — Friend said she did not receive any negative feedback, and many people explicitly encouraged the district to approve the course.
AP African American Studies will be available to Carlisle juniors and seniors starting in the fall of 2023. It is still in a pilot phase, so students and teachers involved with the course will be surveyed by the College Board monthly to see if any changes are needed before the course is available nationwide in the fall of 2024.