Students in Arkansas public schools will no longer be able to take an Advanced Placement African American studies course to receive college credit, as they do with other AP courses.
The move marks conservatives’ latest attempt to marginalize and literally discredit the AP course, which has come under fire in states — like Florida — where conservatives have led a push to whitewash lesson plans about Black history and social inequality.
Word came Friday from distraught educators that a new Advanced Placement course on African American history was suddenly on the chopping block, just two days before the first bell of the school year was set to ring in Arkansas high schools planning to offer the class.
An official from the Arkansas Department of Education reportedly alerted high school teachers by phone on Friday that the class would not be recognized for course credit by the state in the 2023-24 school year. And unlike with every other AP class on offer, the state would not cover the $90 cost of an end-of-year test that gives students the opportunity to qualify for college course credit.
The College Board, the company that administers the Advanced Placement courses, buckled under pressure from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration earlier this year when it removed references to Black Lives Matter and queer Black people from its course on African American studies.
It appears that conservatives in Arkansas might ask for similar concessions — and potentially more.
The state’s education secretary, Jacob Oliva, told a Fayetteville television station that the AP course might violate an executive order signed by Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders in January that prohibits “critical race theory” in schools, as well as legislation the Republican governor signed in February that officially bans the theory, which (mostly white) conservatives have hijacked and used as a catchall term for conversations about racial inequality.
Oliva’s communications director told the TV station, 40/29 News, that the course “is not a history course and is a pilot that is still undergoing major revisions.” But as the Arkansas Times noted, that excuse doesn’t hold up: The course is already being accepted for credit at more than 200 colleges and universities.
With this move, Arkansas conservatives are showing that there are ways other than outright bans to hide history.
With this move, Arkansas conservatives are showing that there are ways other than outright bans to hide history. By denying credit for the AP African American studies course, they disincentivize taking it. And by not covering the AP exam’s $90 cost, they have created a financial hurdle for students who do wish to take it.
And all of this means one thing, in practice: They’re making it burdensome — and arguably frivolous — for students to get a thorough lesson about Black history.