The College Board released a stripped-down curriculum for its new Advanced Placement African American Studies course, removing topics like critical race theory on Feb. 1 — the start of Black History Month.

The course was first announced in August 2022 and received political backlash, especially from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who said he would ban the curriculum. However, a statement from the College Board shows that the organization planned to cut certain topics before DeSantis announced that Florida would not teach the course. 

Elon University senior Christina Carr, president of the university’s Black Student Union, said she was not surprised by this decision. 

“My reaction was not one of surprise or shock. It was something that was expected in a way. I think that in 2020, there was a lot of discourse of Black Lives Matter and wanting to really support Black and brown bodies,” Carr said. “I think a lot of that has gone away.”

The new curriculum makes contemporary topics including the Black Lives Matter movement optional to teach nationwide and omits Black female writers like Audre Lorde and Gloria Jean Watkins, who goes by pen name “bell hooks,” though these authors and others will be available as optional secondary sources.

Carr said this updated curriculum will affect discussion in and out of the classroom. 

“I think that it’s going to decrease how much different teachers are going to talk about issues about race and also other identity based discrimination. I think that it’s going to lead into also discrediting a lot of what people may learn outside of the classroom and what they hear in the news,” Carr said.

She said that this will have an effect on freshmen’s transition into college. 

“We’re just going to see a lot of unlearning that students have to do whenever they get to university,” Carr said. “It is a little bit harder for students to learn those things in college because it’s going to be their first time hearing about it.”

Carr said that while the university has work to do, Black history classes are available to students who seek them out.

Elon University offers an African and African American Studies minor and is planning to have a diversity, equity and inclusion course requirement — beginning with the class of 2027.

Naeemah Clark — the coordinator for Core Forums, Collaboration and Diversity Initiatives in the Core Curriculum — helped lead the initiative for this course requirement. 

She said that after summer 2020, when the Black Lives Matter movement grew nationwide, there was a lot of discussion on social media from Elon students and alumni about their lack of preparation from the university. 

Clark said that many people wrote on social media about how they had not discussed racism during their time in school.

“‘We are not ready to have these hard conversations. We don’t ever talk about racial inequity. We talked about globalization, we talk about sustainability. We never talk about racism. Why do we never do that?’” Clark said, quoting social media posts from students and alumni. 

Clark said that she formed a committee with five other faculty members to address this need. With the help of President Book and the provost at the time, Aswani Volety, they proposed changes to the university core curriculum.

“Students are asking for this. Alumni are asking for this. And clearly society needs it,” Clark said.

In May 2022, Elon University faculty voted to add equitable thinking to the core learning goals and require a course focused on racial equity. 

“My goal is that when Elon students graduate, they are a part of a solution and not a part of a problem,” Clark said. “Whatever the background — students of color from marginalized identities, white students, whoever — that they see where something is not right, where something isn’t happening fairly for a group of people, and they have the skillset to try to remedy that inequity.”

It has not been decided whether the university will accept the AP African American Studies course, but it would count as a 1000-level course. Clark said that it will be up to Keshia Wall, the African and African-American Studies coordinator and the dean of arts and sciences, as to if the university will accept AP credit for the course.

The AER course will not be required for current students unless they change to the 2023 course catalog.

Carr said that this decision is telling of the state of education in America. 

“There’s this lack of wanting to take a risk too, and to step out and actually make real change in the world,” Carr said. “I think it shows a lot about who matters.”