If you only read the headlines, you might think that Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis just won a game of culture-war chicken against the College Board.
You might believe that he forced the College Board to water down its framework for Advanced Placement African American Studies (APAAS), moving controversial topics and key thinkers into an optional side section and adding content about Black conservatism.
But that’s not what happened.
It takes only a passing familiarity with the recent history of school culture wars to see the truth: With or without DeSantis’s grandstanding, the College Board was going to move its framework for APAAS to the middle of the road.
The real win for DeSantis was not in successfully changing the content of the new AP course but in making journalists and voters think he was responsible.
Framing this story as a showdown between DeSantis and the College Board serves only to improve DeSantis’s chances at the Oval Office in 2024 and to let him employ a favorite strategy: gaming the media to focus attention where he wants it (and to avoid attention to other issues).
Like a lot of people, I am familiar with the ways AP classes are developed.
I was a high-school teacher for a long time, and now I work with a lot of high-school teachers.
And, like a lot of teachers, I have a mixed opinion of AP classes and the work of the College Board.
I have no inside knowledge of how the changes were made to the APAAS framework.
But one thing is clear: It is a big mistake to think that the College Board is any sort of bold activist organization, to assume that it might ever be willing to face down conservative pressure.
That is not how the organization works.
Rather, the College Board takes elaborate pains to avoid controversy in their frameworks, or even the merest appearance of controversy.
In the case of this course’s framework, even a casual observer knew that the first draft would lose much of its material.