Pilot AP African American Studies Course crucial to high school education


Connie Erdozain

AP African American Studies focuses largely on historical movements and how people of African descent have influenced the world, making it an important course for students to take.

Connie Erdozain

The College Board has announced that it will be introducing a pilot AP African-American Studies program to 60 high schools across the United States. AP African American Studies is the first ever ethnic studies AP course, making it an essential class in the current educational climate as there is limited education focused on this topic. 

The AP African American Studies class provides a deeper insight into students’ understanding of American history. A survey conducted by the National Museum of African American Culture and History found that most teachers were only able to dedicate around eight percent of the U.S. history curriculum to learning about African American history.

 AP African American Studies helps to combat this problem by incorporating a wide range of topics that span from important parts of African History, to contemporary African-American literature, music and entertainment. The course is also focused on the African Diaspora, which has largely contributed to cultural development in the U.S. These topics show the significance of African history and how deeply entangled it is with American history, meaning that it should be taught as more than merely 8 percent of the total U.S. history curriculum. 

Furthermore, AP African American Studies provides a sense of relevance to history classes which has been lost in classes such as AP European History, AP United States History and AP World History. The class is more focused on and related to people within the United States than other similar classes. AP European History, for example, explores events not always directly relevant to Americans, especially in the present-day. AP African American Studies becoming a class is crucial, as only having AP European History as an alternative to the AP United States history and AP World History could imply a very eurocentric-focused education system. Introducing the new course shows that some educators understand the importance of teaching African-American history to all students and providing diversity to teaching. 

Additionally, AP African American Studies helps students of every background develop a higher cultural awareness. The class is not solely focused on the history of African Americans, but also on how they influenced the culture of the U.S. With this knowledge, students can become more aware of the cultures that they interact with, especially taking into account the importance of African-American culture in society today. Furthermore, cultural awareness can help encourage academic participation and engagement in general. For example, Ethnic studies increases longer-run academic engagement and attainment, a study conducted by three scholars from Stanford University, University of Massachusetts Amherst and University of California Irvine found that ethnic studies increased the overall attainment of information for high schoolers. With an ethnic studies curriculum such as an AP African American Studies, students are more likely to show engagement and incorporate their knowledge into their everyday lives.

Moreover, AP African American studies provides background information and context for current issues and events regarding racial discrimination. A study titled Fatal police violence by race and state in the USA, 1980–2019: a network meta-regression, found that in recent years, police brutality has increased, with an estimate of 30,800 people dying, 69 percent of them being black. The AP African American studies course teaches students about the systemic racism experienced by African Americans, helping students understand how current events like the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 started. 

In recent years, 16 states, including Georgia, have banned critical race theory. Critical race theory is the idea that racism is rooted in laws, policies and education, and is not just based on prejudice. Banning critical race theory has caused many teachers to avoid the subject of African-American history entirely, or to teach a watered-down version of it. In Oklahoma, a teacher named Melissa Smith at Oklahoma City Community College said that her class, which covered the topic of white privilege, was canceled because it had implied critical race theory. Do you have this teacher’s name and school’s name and location in Oklahoma? Because AP African American Studies is one curriculum that would be taught uniformly in all schools that offer it, teachers would still be able to discuss topics regarding the history of racism without mentioning critical race theory.

It is immensely important for students to take AP African American Studies, as it can enhance their knowledge of current events as well as promote their cultural and social awareness. With ongoing racism and discrimination towards African Americans, AP African American Studies is possibly the most valuable and crucial AP class that students should take.