Rann Miller

By Rann Miller | Guest Blogger AC JosepH Media

As a current teacher of advanced placement U.S. history, I can honestly attest to the importance of AP courses for students.

Not only am I able to offer my students rigorous instruction in the area of U.S. history (teaching them what students don’t traditionally in their history classes), but my students (and all AP students) benefit from the experience of an AP course in other ways.

Students who complete the AP exam can receive college credits. Also, taking an AP course looks great on your high school transcript when applying for college. Lastly, research shows that students who take AP courses and exams have better college outcomes than their peers.

All this to say, I was initially excited about the College Board creating an advance placement class in African American History — because student would get the benefit of an AP course and one on Black History.

The course, according to College Board, is a multidisciplinary course that takes a comprehensive look at the “history, politics, culture, and economics of North American people of African descent.” The course was developed with the guidance of Harvard faculty including Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham and Henry Louis Gates; both with backgrounds in African American history.

Personally, I’ve cited information from a few books by Dr. Gates in lessons taught to my APUSH students.

With anything new or different, there is always criticism from somewhere; whether valid or invalid. In light of the backlash against Critical Race Theory, there is certainly right-winged criticism for this AP course in Black History, to which the CEO of College Board responded. Of course, this brand of criticism is invalid.

There is, however, a valid area of concern with regards to this course, at least in my opinion.

man holding a paper while talking to a woman at the office
Photo by Darlene Alderson on Pexels.com.

That is, students taking the AP course will be less likely to learn Black history from scholars in the subject of Black history; specifically, Black scholars — because they won’t need to take it again in college.

That’s a concern because unlike teachers — who in fairness, very well could be scholars of Black history in their own right — college instructors of African-American history have studied the subject and likely have a doctorate in history or Black history, whereby their studies have led to their credential and scholarship on the topic.

That means those individuals have more than likely wrestled with various subjects and concepts concerning the Black experience within a white settler colonial project.

The cruel irony is that college professors cannot teach high school students without a state certification … even if an expert in their field, but I digress.

I never had the opportunity to take an advanced placement class in Black history in high school. I wish I had the chance since there was an honors class in European history, but again, I digress. Yet, when I entered undergrad at Rutgers University-Camden, I had the honor and privilege of sitting under Drs. Wayne Glasker and Katrina Hazzard-Donald; a historian and sociologist by trade respectively, and scholars of African American History.

What I learned from them about Black history and Black people is something I would have never received from a teacher in an AP class.

Bio: Rann Miller directs the 21st Century Community Learning Center, a federally funded after-school program located in southern New Jersey. He spent years teaching in charter schools in Camden, New Jersey. He is the creator, writer, and editor of the Official Urban Education Mixtape Blog. Follow him on Twitter: @UrbanEdDJ.  

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