College Board adds African diaspora as AP Seminar theme

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Dive Brief:

  • New College Board curricula adds African diaspora as an AP Seminar theme in an effort to help connect students to Black experiences, EdSurge reports.
  • Educators also hope including the African diaspora in curriculum will attract more diversity to AP classes, which are taken by mostly white students. Curriculum developers worked with researchers at the African diaspora Consortium to create the content in line with the learning objectives of the AP Capstone Program.
  • In the class, students select research projects to conduct, with research on African American culture having included: African-American English as a valid dialect; changing the term “African Americans” to more specific definitions, such as Nigerian-Americans; or Africa’s influence on music. Some students have also voiced the desire to conduct their upcoming research on George Floyd and police brutality.

Dive Insight:

Though efforts to develop more culturally responsive curriculum have been under way for a few years, the police-involved death of George Floyd and other recent incidents of police brutality have raised the level of urgency. Teachers and districts are seizing on the Black Lives Matter moment to reshape lessons through a more diverse lens. For example, the free online “Abolitionist Teaching Book Club” quickly grew into a five-day teacher webinar with 10,000-attendees.

After a summer filled with civil unrest, the lack of history lessons including topics like the Juneteenth Independence Day holiday became examples of glaring omissions. According to a Twitter poll conduct by School Library Journal, 90% of respondents who work in schools do not teach students about the holiday, also known as Emancipation Day, which is recognized as a state holiday in all but three states. Creating lessons with relevant, local history can also give more context to the topic and encourage students to do their own research.

The New York City Department of Education is among school systems reworking curriculum to make it more culturally responsive. The initiative is designed to fight hate crimes and encourage the embrace of different cultural perspectives. The NYC Coalition for Educational Justice has previously noted a lack of representation, diversity and inclusivity in the district’s teaching materials. While 67% of the district’s student population is Black or Latino, for example, 84% of the books are written by white authors. Baltimore City Public Schools also credits a month-long teacher training program and several events for steering the community toward a more inclusive curriculum.

Thanksgiving also offers an opportunity to embed curriculum that is culturally sensitive to Native Americans, though most Thanksgiving lessons still paint a rosy picture of the holiday’s origins. But to fully develop an understanding of Native American history, experts also suggest accurate depictions be embedded throughout the curriculum year-round.

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