In a striking act of courage, every public high school in Arkansas that had initially offered the Advanced Placement African American Studies course has decided to keep it in its syllabus, even amidst pressures from the Arkansas Department of Education.
The state had hinted that it might not credit students taking this course, but it seems the educators are determined to prioritize meaningful education over regulatory roadblocks. This move finds its roots in the controversial Arkansas LEARNS Act, endorsed by Republican Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, which is said to prevent “indoctrination” in public schools.
The Arkansas Education Association, representing the state’s unionized educators, lauded the Little Rock School District for its brave decision to retain this AP course. “It’s a bold step,” comments April Reisma, president of the teachers’ union. And rightly so, as the aforementioned act removed long-standing protections for teachers, leaving them in a vulnerable state where they can be dismissed without prior notice.
These educators, according to Reisma, are treading on thin ice, being under the constant threat of arbitrary dismissals. To add to their challenges, the state’s Education Department emphasized that the African American studies course wouldn’t qualify for graduation credits. Furthermore, the state wouldn’t offer assistance for students struggling to afford the $98 final test fee.
However, in a hopeful turn of events, the Little Rock School District confirmed its commitment to student development, declaring that the course will be “weighted the same as all other AP courses.” Moreover, the district decided to bear the exam’s expenses. Their letter emphasized the dedication of their educators to provide “engaging and thought-provoking lessons that encourage critical thinking, empathy, and a deep appreciation for cultural diversity.”
Little Rock Central High School, notably the nation’s first racially integrated school in 1957, alongside other schools like those in Jonesboro, Jacksonville, and North Little Rock, have all jumped on board to offer this vital course.
It’s concerning that Huckabee Sanders’ recent law, which closely resembles Florida’s, aims to censor educational content, claiming to prevent student “indoctrination.” Moreover, another Arkansas law, which tried to penalize librarians for distributing “harmful” content to minors, was halted by a federal judge.
Such moves from Arkansas schools underscore the importance of holistic education and act as a beacon of hope in these polarizing times. They remind us of the spirit of resilience, understanding, and dedication to imparting knowledge, no matter the hurdles.