Correspondent Lisa Ling’s first assignment for CBS Mornings Tuesday after leaving CNN was to smear the AP education standards and accuse conservatives like Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis of not teaching the full history of the United States, especially when it comes to slavery. Ling even took a field trip to Dorsey High School in Los Angeles where she sat in on a history class discussion about slavery.
“AP African-American Studies is at its core, a history course, tracing the Black experience from early African kingdoms to slavery and the civil rights movement through today. It’s drawn fire from some GOP officials who say it’s an example of wokeism infiltrating education,” Ling grumbled in her introduction.
Ling explained that “The class began taking shape in 2020 after the killing of George Floyd sparked nationwide protests.”
Ling then announced she “wanted to know if the Dorsey students were aware they were in the middle of a political firestorm”:
After Ling’s report, co-host Gayle King huffed that “it’s so sad to me now that the word wokeism has now almost become weaponized.”
9 minutes and 2 seconds
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Inside AP African American Studies; CBS News Visits a Classroom to Find Out What Students Are Learning]
GAYLE KING: Shifting gears now this morning, we’re getting an exclusive look inside what may be the most controversial high school class in the country. The new Advanced Placement Course in African-American Studies is being piloted at hundreds of U.S. high schools. Award-winning journalist and producer, Lisa Ling, we’re happy to say is now a CBS News contributor. She got to sit in on one of the classes. Lisa teamed up with our CBS News Investigative Unit, and this is her first story for us, Lisa, I say welcome. We are so thrilled to have you.
LISA LING: Thank you so much, Gayle, and I just have to say that my heart bleeds for those innocent people in Israel and in Gaza whose lives have been turned upside down, but the story I’m bringing you today is about who gets to teach history. And I think it’s important as our world is in such disarray. Now, AP African-American Studies is at its core, a history course, tracing the Black experience from early African kingdoms to slavery and the civil rights movement through today. It’s drawn fire from some GOP officials who say it’s an example of wokeism infiltrating education. Now, we wanted to witness the class ourselves and hear from the students at the center of this culture war. It’s a Thursday morning at Dorsey High School in Los Angeles and I’m observing a class discussion —
DONALD SINGLETON: What have you learned — what did you know of African women during slavery?
LISA LING: — unlike any I’ve ever heard before.
BOY: It was entirely okay and permissible to rape a slave, kill a slave, hang a slave, lynch a slave, but anytime — you were just as bad as a slave.
LING: Led by Donald Singleton who has been teaching at Dorsey for 26 years, these juniors and seniors are a month into a national experiment —
SINGLETON: The claim is that Africans came to this country skilled. Can I see any evidence?
GIRL: There was kings and queens. There was trading. They didn’t get everything from the Europeans.
LING: — working to earn college credit through a new Advanced Placement Course on African-American Studies.
SINGLETON: Give it up for stepping in class.
LING: Like all other AP classes, African-American Studies is designed by the nonprofit, College Board, with help from university professors. The class began taking shape in 2020 after the killing of George Floyd sparked nationwide protests.
SINGLETON: The excitement for me is starting in Africa and for millions and millions of Black kids, Africa is born in them.
LING: At Dorsey where the student body is mostly Black and Latino, the hope is that this class will entice a demographic that hasn’t sought out AP classes at the same rate as others. [TO SINGLETON] How have your students been responding to the class?
SINGLETON: My students come in excited. They have done the reading and they wonder, wow, I never learned this in any of my other classes.
LING: More than 700 US high schools like this one in Columbia, South Carolina are offering the course this year and next year, it should be available to any school that wants it.
SINGLETON: How do you overcome the bondages that society has placed upon you?
GIRL: You have to teach yourself, teach others.
LING: When I think back on the way American history was taught to me, for lack of a better term, it was pretty black and white. What I experienced here, though, was so much more nuanced. It was so much more humanized and some in this country seem to have a problem with that. In January, Florida banned it, writing the course was inexplicably contrary to Florida law, and significantly lacks educational value.
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We want education, not indoctrination.
LING [TO SINGLETON]: Do you believe you are indoctrinating your kids?
SINGLETON: I inculcate my kids with the idea that you’re just as beautiful, just as brilliant as anyone else. That’s my job every day.
LING [TO SINGLETON]: You really think of them as your kids?
SINGLETON: All of them are my kids. Nothing to do with race or ethnicity.
LING: Not long after Florida banned the class, the College Board amended the curriculum, removing content on systemic racism, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the push for reparations. [TO CARVALHO] The curriculum that is being taught today, do you believe it’s been sanitized?
ALBERTO CARVALHO (LA Unified School District superintendent): Yes, I do.
LING: Though, the College Board said the changes were part of their regular development process, some educators like Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of LA Unified School District believe the organization acquiesced to political pressure.
CARVALHO: If you want to really learn about the history of the African-American experience, you cannot leave out or sanitize slavery or the civil rights movements, or the fact that our nation has criminalized activities resulting in disproportionate numbers of people of color being in prison.
LING: The curriculum is intended to be a roadmap, and teachers are free to introduce additional topics.
SINGLETON: Can I talk about Black Lives Matter? Of course, I can. Can I talk about reparations in California? Of course, I can. Just because it is not going to be tested on the exam, there is nothing that says you’re not allowed to teach about these subjects.
LING: And despite the modifications, the class remains completely banned in Florida. In all, 18 states have passed laws restricting how race can be taught in K through 12 schools.
GOVERNOR SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS (R-AR): We cannot perpetuate a lie to our students and push this propaganda, leftist agenda, teaching our kids to hate America and hate one another.
LING: I wanted to know if the Dorsey students were aware they were in the middle of a political firestorm. [TO STUDENTS] Do you all know that this class that you’re sitting in right now is considered pretty controversial?
LING [TO STUDENTS]: Do you think that it should be considered controversial?
GIRL: This isn’t a political class. This isn’t like — like choosing sides. It’s history that everybody should know.
LING: I sat down with a group of them after class to hear more. [TO FEMALE STUDENT] What compelled all of you to want to take this class?
GIRL: To learn more about my people, my history. It is just the truth.
LING: Hasan Wright, a senior, rejected claims the class stoked racial divisions.
HASAN WRIGHT: So if there was a class that was deliberately telling students to hate White people and hate this country, I wouldn’t be against that class, too. I don’t think we should teach hatred of any kind.
LING: And Junior Jordan Love told me it changed the way he thought about Black history.
JORDAN LOVE: There’s a major difference between having somebody tell you that you’re the ancestor of a slave family, and having somebody tell you that you’re the ancestor of an advanced civilization.
BOY: Knowledge is power.
LISA LING [TO STUDENTS]: Is that what people are afraid of?
GIRL: They want to keep us not knowing the truth.
GIRL: If we have that knowledge, we’re able to speak out. Our voices are the strongest weapon that we can use.
LING: There are some who say that education should not be about empowerment or advocacy. It should be education.
SINGLETON: If it is not about empowerment, why do we say the Pledge of Allegiance? Why do we teach about the Declaration of Independence? Why did we talk about the Constitution? Isn’t that empowerment? A spokesman for the College Board denied caving to political pressure, and some said that some of the topics it removed may still be restored when the final curriculum is released later this year. Now in a statement, Florida’s Education Department pointed to new African- American history standards it says complies with state law, and LAUSD chief Alberto Carvalho, who served as head of Miami’s school district under Ron DeSantis until 2021 he believes those new Florida standards “erase history.”
KING: Yeah. I know, it’s so sad to me now that the word wokeism has now almost become —
NATE BURLESON: Yep.
KING: — weaponized. It’s really missing the point about what’s being taught here. You know, I don’t look at it as wokeism so much as truthism and I think if people would take the time to really see what is happening in these classes and what’s being taught. Nowhere are we trying to say — anybody is trying to say hate White people, ignore —
KING: — it drives me crazy when I hear that, Lisa.
BURLESON: Gayle, wokeism is just misleading the future generations from learning about our history.
KING: Yes, yes.
BURLESON: Listen —
KING: And it is our history.
BURLESON: — yeah, exactly.
LING: And that’s the thing about the class that I experienced.
KING: But you took the class.
KING: I’d be curious about what you thought about the class.
LING: Yeah, nothing that I experienced in the class was hate-fueled by no means.
LING: And when I think about how we were taught history, how the humanity of it was removed.
LING: And I do think that if we all had an opportunity to be exposed to more diverse histories, we might not be in this fractured state that we are in this country.
KING: That we are today.
LING: And around the country, frankly.
VLADIMIR DUTHIERS: What were you going to say, Nate?
BURLESON: The facts are that history is written by victors and if you are a group that for generations have been under the foot of enslavement, oppression, discrimination, you are not learning your history.
BURLESON: I learned more about my history when I was in my late 20s after I left school —
BURLESON: — because I was taught about the heroes, the war heroes, and the kings and queens that did not look like me for so long and that’s why this is frustrating.
LING: Because history is written by the victors.
BURLESON: There you go. Lisa, thank you. It’s good to have you.
LING: Thank you.
DUTHIERS: Great to have you at CBS.
BURLESON: And we appreciate your contributions —
LING: Appreciate it.
BURLESON: — for decades. Thank you so much.