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Pritzker seeks more info on AP African American Studies course

Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. JB Pritzker this week asked the College Board for more information about its reasoning for changing the final framework of a new Advanced Placement course in African American studies after it had been criticized by Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“Although we are pleased to see many core ideas remain in place, there are still significant issues with the way the College Board has chosen to present this curriculum,” Pritzker said in an email statement. “Refusing to name the components of Black history that Gov. DeSantis is most afraid of like intersectionality, feminism and queer Black life but still including them in the curriculum can be viewed as a weak attempt to please extremists.”

The College Board – the not-for-profit organization that administers the SAT test as well as AP courses through which high school students can earn college credit – first released a pilot course in August in 60 high schools. It then spent months refining the course with feedback from college professors and high school teachers before releasing the final framework on Wednesday, Feb. 1, the first day of Black History Month in the United States.

But the subject immediately became embroiled in culture war politics when conservatives attacked it for promoting “critical race theory” – the idea that racial disparities are the result of systemic prejudices that are woven into the fabric of institutions. DeSantis blocked it from being offered in his state, claiming it violated a Florida law known as the “Stop Wrongs Against Our Kids and Employees Act,” or the Stop WOKE Act.

According to reports, DeSantis specifically objected to the teaching of concepts like “intersectionality” – the overlapping of categories such as race, class and gender and other sources of discrimination to create unique dynamics and effects – as well as Black queer studies, the Black Lives Matter movement and the reparations movement.

That prompted a backlash from Democratic lawmakers in Florida as well as Pritzker, who wrote to the College Board on Jan. 25, warning it not to change the curriculum or cave in to pressure from conservatives like DeSantis.

“Regardless of some leaders’ efforts, ignoring and censoring the accurate reporting of history will not change the realities of the country in which we live,” Pritzker wrote. “In Illinois, we will not accept this watering down of history.”

When the final framework came out Wednesday, it was immediately criticized in the national media, including the New York Times, for having been “scrubbed” and “purged” of content that DeSantis and other conservatives found objectionable, including the names of Black writers associated with critical race theory.

The College Board, in turn, seemed to anticipate those criticisms and rejected them in a news release announcing the final framework.

“No states or districts have seen the official framework that is released, much less provided feedback on it,” the board said. “This course has been shaped only by the input of experts and long-standing AP principles and practices.”

Later in the day, it issued a second statement specifically responding to the New York Times article bearing the headline, “How the New York Times Got it Wrong on AP African American Studies.” That statement called the story “a gross misrepresentation of the content of the course and the process by which it was developed.”

A spokeswoman for Pritzker said Wednesday that any local district in Illinois that wants to offer the course is free to do so.

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Capitol News Illinois

Capitol News Illinois

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit news service operated by the Illinois Press Foundation that provides coverage of state government to newspapers throughout Illinois. It is funded by donations from the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. The mission of Capitol News Illinois is to provide credible and unbiased coverage of state government. Capitol News Illinois provides year-round, daily coverage of the Legislature, including committee hearings; state agencies and issues; state office holders; and the Illinois Supreme Court and legal matters.

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