By Don Allen, Senior Columnist – Our Black News (MN)
Directly after the murder of George Floyd, many major firms went under a ‘pander-demic,’ citing they would make sure that at the foundation of their best practice there would be fair and balanced roles of Equity for Black and Brown people. The most important group in education, besides our state department of education that has not complied is the College Board who controls AP English and other courses. This is my letter as suggested and edited by the Black AP organization.
Dear Mr. Coleman and Mr. Packer:
My name is Don Allen, M.A.Ed./MAT. I am a high school English teacher in a school that is 100-percent free or reduced lunch and 95-percent minority-ethnic and I care deeply about the future of our students. I am writing this letter to strongly encourage the College Board to develop an Advanced Placement Black American Literature and Composition, Black History, and Black Studies course. We have all heard the old adage that each successive generation should and will be better than the previous, and I am calling on you to make that a reality. My telephone calls to the College Board have been met with harsh disdain and non-reponse, and maybe it’s because of the leadership of AP and the College Board – see here. I understand you don’t speak the same language as the scholars in the inner-city, but author James Baldwin knew it to0: “…the subduers don’t speak the same language as the subdued.”
Advanced Placement programs play a vital role in developing our students into more educated, thoughtful, and analytical citizens. I believe that such a goal can only be achieved through showing students that racially-based narratives can – and should – change. I believe that academia must evolve, and that begins with amplifying Black voices and narratives. What voices are we silencing by denying a platform? If you offer college-level courses, you must offer college-level discourse. I am imploring you to use your incredible platform and massive influence over student decision-making to create an Advanced Placement Black History Course.
Your own AP Equity and Access Policy states, “We encourage the elimination of barriers that restrict access to AP for students from ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic groups that have been traditionally underrepresented.” Representation begins with education, but education is still controlled by those in power. I am asking you to take a stand for those very students who, by your own words, have been “traditionally unrepresented.”
Black history has been sanitized in traditional curricula. In order to engage fully and deconstruct prejudice, it deserves more thorough exploration. You have a unique power to provide students with the knowledge and context to be – put simply, better.
You have called for equity, and now you are being called for representation. Imagine the generational ripple effects of a world educated about Black History. I envision a more tolerant, compassionate, and energetic society. One that is focused on equity. One that recognizes the atrocities that have been committed against the Black community. One that gives them a voice to share their own experiences. One that seeks to uphold the values we have already laid claim to, and failed thus far to achieve.
College Board, you have an amazing power to begin a process of healing and connecting. You have the opportunity to take an important first step to dismantling systemic racism in our school systems. Education may not be the ultimate answer, but this is a chance to build a foundation to reach one. It is a travesty that we as a whole are ignorant to a rich and important history that has molded and shaped our present society. Do not continue to perpetuate white silencing of people of color, especially Black male educators.
Thus, I am proposing that the College Board take a stand and create an Advanced Placement Black American Literature and Composition, Black History, and Black Studies course. Your literature cites that students who take AP classes are more likely to be successful in college. I believe that students who take AP Black American Literature and Composition, Black History, and Black Studies courses will be more successful in alleviating racism in the world.
I eagerly look forward to your announcement of a course(s) in development with a committee composed of respected scholars in the field. Anything less is inequitable.
Don Allen, M.A. Ed./MAT
AP Literature and Composition Teacher