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Redwood Bark

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Redwood Bark

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Diverse perspectives: Redwood set to launch Advanced Placement African American Studies

Incoming juniors and seniors can simultaneously take a history course and Advanced Placement African American Studies (Photo by Lauren Poulin).

Beginning in the 2024-25 school year, the Advanced Placement (AP) African American Studies course will officially be launched and offered to all juniors and seniors. The class is only offered at 700 high schools nationwide and the subject was put on the AP test for the first time in 2023. The course will focus on and examine the diversity of African American experiences. Additionally, it will allow students to make connections between early African kingdoms and contemporary society. This class is the only multidisciplinary course offered in Redwood’s history department and includes material about literature, music and sports, which is taught alongside traditional history instruction. 

Nickolai Butkevich, one of Redwood’s history teachers, currently teaches World History and World Cultures and Geography paired with the Social Issues course. Butkevich has applied to teach the AP African American Studies course and expresses his excitement about the opportunity to introduce something different from the typical history curriculum. 

“The fact that [the class] is multidisciplinary is the most exciting thing for me,” Butkevich said. “This is a unique offering, in the sense that whoever teaches [the course] will be tracing music as it evolves from Africa, through the Americas, all the way to the modern age. I think it’s going to be an exciting class to teach.”

Students must take a government and economics class during their senior year, which fulfills a history requirement. Even as a junior, Kate Winter is looking forward to the opportunity to take an additional history class during her final year. 

“I was sad that I wasn’t going to be able to take [a history class] senior year, so I was really excited when it was announced that AP African American Studies was going to come to Redwood. I think it will blend history, social studies and the way society works,” Winter said. 

Flyers posted throughout Redwood advertise the history electives chosen for the upcoming school year to increase student participation. (Photo by Lauren Poulin)

Winter also noticed that specific groups, especially the African American community, in traditional history courses have been ignored in past curricula. Now, with this new class,  students will be able to recognize the contributions made by the African American community that have shaped American society.

“[The African American community has] always been either at the center or near the center of every major turning point of [American] history. They’ve greatly contributed to our culture and what it means to be an American. It’s unimaginable what our country would be like without them,” Butkevich said. 

“[The African American community has] always been either at the center or near the center of every major turning point of [American] history. They’ve greatly contributed to our culture and what it means to be an American. It’s unimaginable what our country would be like without them,”

— Nickolai Butkevich

While many share Butkevich’s sentiments, the course still received criticism from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and other state officials in early 2023. This backlash stemmed from the state’s belief that the course violated state laws and was historically inaccurate, resulting in the College Board releasing a newly revised curriculum. 

“What’s interesting about [Florida’s decision] was a couple of things. [First of all], the College Board accepted about 75 percent of what Florida said, took it as valid criticism and removed it from the course, which I’ve never seen before,” Butkevich said.

Winter found Florida’s decision detrimental to students’ learning and emphasized the importance of inclusive education. 

“If Florida is rejecting this course, then their students are not going to be prepared to live in the real world and society because that’s how America is; it’s super diverse,” Winter said. “If we’re only teaching one group of people’s history, then a whole part of America is being completely erased.”

All AP courses are meant to dive deeply into a topic and allow students to be critical thinkers. Students who take these classes tend to have a deep interest in their chosen subject. Frequently, those who elect to take an AP history class are inclined to focus on learning different aspects of history. Butkevich hopes to recruit students who bring the same curiosity that he does to the classroom. 

“As a teacher, that’s what you want. You want to be in a room full of students who are just as excited as you are to learn something new and explore it,” Butkevich said.

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About the Contributor
Emily Garcia
Emily Garcia, News Editor
Emily Garcia is a junior at Redwood High School and is a news editor for the Redwood Bark. She enjoys listening to music and spending time with friends and family.