NORFOLK, Va. — After months of controversy over “divisive concepts” and “critical race theory,” which isn’t taught in Virginia public schools, change is coming to African American history lessons in high schools.
The College Board announced it is revising its Advanced Placement course. The course is already banned in Florida and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin already ordered a review of what's being taught.
Old Dominion University assistant professor of African American history Dr. Marvin Chiles said this move by the College Board seems to be a compromise.
“I don’t think it’s a, ‘Hey, they’re trying to capitulate.’ I think that’s pretty much what the criticism would be: ‘Oh, you’re just doing whatever a critic says.’ An important critic: the governor of Florida and also the governor of Virginia,” Dr. Chiles said.
In February, Gov. Youngkin ordered a review of the course to see if it conflicts with state policies regarding how race is taught. He had voiced concerns about “inherently divisive concepts.”'
The College Board has not said what exactly will be changed but Dr. Chiles said it seems the College Board is finding a “happy medium” between parents and politicians who support the course and those who don’t.
“Most adults in this country had no African American history training at all. They learned very little. They had maybe a square picture of Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, but they didn’t learn anything else, they didn’t know. So, you go from that to saying, ‘Ok, we’re going to throw the whole back at you.’ You got to ease it. You’ve got to ease it in there, and I’m not saying do it in a way that’s subversive," he said.
“You have to make things palatable for the audience. You can’t just throw a brick at them and say, ‘You better take this brick through your window!’ I’m not saying that’s what this is, but there is a give-and-take process,” he added.
Dr. Chiles compared the conversation surrounding this course to the controversy surrounding the theory of evolution when scientists first introduced that topic into the classroom.
“Many parents got angry. Church groups got angry. It led to the point in the mid-1920s where there were bans on teaching evolution in schools," Dr. Chiles said. “I don’t think there’s a bending over backward by the college board. They have to have societal legitimacy. They have to have parents and educators on board with it. And it’s going to take some time.”
Dr. Chiles said change is incremental. What’s important is keeping African American history in schools.