Some surviving members of the Little Rock Nine are pushing back against the Arkansas Department of Education’s decision to drop the Advanced Placement (AP) African American studies course from its schools.
Earlier this week, the department said the course would not count toward high school graduation credit, claiming it was still in the pilot stage and would not be accepted until revisions were completed.
“The AP African American Studies pilot course is not a history course and is a pilot that is still undergoing major changes,” officials said in a statement to Education Week. “Arkansas law has provisions regarding prohibited subjects.”
“Without explanation, we cannot approve a pilot that may inadvertently put a teacher at risk in violation of Arkansas law,” they added.
Two members of the Little Rock Nine — the group of nine African American students who desegregated Little Rock Central High School in 1957 — are challenging the Arkansas Department of Education’s decision.
“I think attempts to erase history work for the Republican Party,” said Elizabeth Eckford, a member of the Little Rock Nine in an interview with NBC News. “They have boogeymen who are very popular with their supporters.
Terrance Roberts, now 81, told NBC News he wasn’t surprised to hear about the bans in the course and called the bans critical race theory — an academic framework that looks at how the impact of systemic racism in American laws and constitution – “ridiculous.” He said he knows some don’t want to face history, but stressed the need for students to know the truth.
At the “bare minimum,” he said, there should be no “laws restricting their ability to learn, or what they can learn.”
Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) ordered a curriculum review earlier this year after the state banned critical race theory. Among the governor’s order is a review of AP African American studies, which were taught in two school districts in the state last year, including Central High School.
The Little Rock School District said it will continue to offer the course, which NBC News reported Roberts welcomed, while acknowledging the challenges ahead.
“I know there are voices pushing,” he told NBC News. “The question is, will they succeed?”
In an interview with Fox News Thursday, Sanders said he wants to focus on “the fundamentals of teaching math, teaching reading, writing and American history,” and said the state can’t “push this propaganda on leftist agenda.”
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