(WHTM) — A new AP high school course will soon be available across the country, focusing on African American history and culture. The college board released the official framework for AP African American Studies in February.
The course is still in the pilot phase, being tested in 60 schools across the U.S., but some Midstate school districts are already thinking about how to incorporate the curriculum.
“I do think it’s game-changing, I do, and I think it’s the beginning, African American studies is just the first part,” Steelton-Highspire High School principal Eleni Cordero said.
Cordero and her staff are listening to their students.
“They wanted Latin American history, local history and African American history,” Cordero said.
Cordero is looking at bringing different AP courses to Steelton-Highspire, including the College Board’s newest: AP African American Studies.
“Next year, we’re hoping to be able to bring the new curriculum to the district,” she said.
Cordero said the class opens the door to hard conversations with all students, regardless of race.
“Things are happening in our world that are good, bad, and ugly and we have to be ready to talk about it,” she said. “It’s even harder to have [those conversations] when you’re talking about teaching the curriculum to black and brown and white children together in one room.”
Franklin Allen, president of the NAACP of Greater Harrisburg said it is important to face the hard facts of history.
“We don’t need to hide slavery, we don’t need to hide oppression because every nation, culture that’s here has a history, and those children need to know their history,” he said.
Education chair Mark Smith said it is also important to learn the positive contributions.
“If these inventions are not in the textbooks, then people have a distorted understanding and distorted vision of history,” he said.
Smith said it is not just about learning about the contributions of African Americans, but of all cultures.
“It’s all part of history, it’s all part of the building of the United States,” he said.
Both men said the course is a good step, but it has faced some controversy. Florida governor Ron DeSantis rejected the pilot framework in January, saying it pushed a political agenda.
Some of the topics he criticized were later removed as required material from the final framework, sparking anger from some, but the College Board said those decisions were made in December 2022, months before DeSantis’ comments, and those topics are still included as optional.
“You cannot use the political forum as a bully pulpit to distract from things that help us educate our children, educate our communities,” Allen said about DeSantis’ comments.
Politics aside, Cordero said this course is an opportunity for kids of color to see themselves in the material. The Steelton-Highspire school district is over 50% Black and over 25% Latino.
“You could take one of your most troubled kids and put them in a class like the African American Studies and because they can relate and they can engage in conversation, you’re going to see a whole different kid,” she said.
She added learning this material and having the conversations a course like this promotes will prepare students for the future.
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“These are the guys that are going to grow up and change the way we see and the way we talk about things that are happening in the world right now,” she said. “It starts here, this is the foundation, and I think we’re going to bridge the gap from here to college and start these conversations younger because we have 7th and 8th graders who want to talk about it.”
AP African American Studies will continue as a pilot course for another school year, expanding to hundreds of high schools in the fall of 2023. The course will be available to all high schools in the 2024-2025 school year.