Classical alternatives to academic giant appear as its dominance is challenged

Recent disputes over political bias in the College Board’s curriculum have raised questions regarding its status in conservative states. These challenges have opened conversations about creating alternative public testing services.

Amidst these disputes, the College Board released the curriculum for its new Advanced Placement (AP) African American Studies Exam in August. But the testing service soon redacted portions of it after Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida pointed out that the syllabus contained “queer theory,” “intersectionality” and “other types of neo-Marxism.” This conflict between DeSantis and the education corporations has launched a public conversation surrounding the place of the College Board in the future of education.

DeSantis threatened to ban the curriculum and signed into law Florida’s “Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act,” or “Stop WOKE Act,” which prohibits teaching students to bear “personal responsibility” for historic wrongdoings. DeSantis explained: “We won’t allow Florida tax dollars to be spent teaching kids to hate our country or to hate each other. We also have a responsibility to ensure that parents have the means to vindicate their rights when it comes to enforcing state standards.”

Conservatives and opponents of the current structure of public education have celebrated DeSantis’s move and taken it as an opportunity to explore alternatives to the College Board.

President of Notre Dame College Republicans P.J. Butler told the Rover: “Florida’s fight against the College Board is a step in the right direction for restoring merit to and improving the substance of entry testing for higher education. As Ron DeSantis has demonstrated through his prudential use of political tools, governors can exert significant impact on university systems through board appointments, curriculum formation, and even an evaluation of partnerships.” 

“Conservatives must continue to develop a cohesive blueprint to reform these institutions in states where they have the electoral support to do so and provide their citizens with high-quality education that is free from progressive ideology,” Butler concluded.

Another member of Notre Dame College Republicans, Luca Fanucchi, added via email, “I wholeheartedly support [DeSantis’s decision]. I think the best argument I’ve heard on the topic is that black history is American history. It is unnecessary and divisive to try to single out the black community as requiring a special class or education apart from American history as a whole.”

Following this political controversy, English teacher Auguste Meyrat published an article in the American Mind in which he discusses his “love-hate relationship with the College Board” due to its “leftist bias” and “progressive pedagogy that emphasizes skills over content.” Meyrat calls for conservatives “to break College Board’s monopoly altogether by developing alternative advanced courses and exams that high school students could take for college credit.” He added, “In pursuing a leftist agenda and trying to placate leftist radicals, College Board is daring conservatives to compete and deliver a better product.”

Describing a program very similar to the already existent Classical Learning Test, Meyrat proposed, “Building off the existing framework of classical academies and expanding their advanced [class] offerings.” He cites Pete Hegseth and David Goodwin’s book Battle for the American Mind, in which “they advocate for schools that exclusively offer content based on the Western canon and traditional, teacher-centered pedagogy that stresses regular assessments, lectures, and objective grades-as opposed to the student-based model that promotes progressive ideology and pedagogy that stresses group projects, relative standards, and arbitrary demonstrations of mastery. The courses of this [proposed] Conservative Classical College Board would have all the rigor and depth of the original College Board without the leftist nonsense that undermines the values and goals of most American families.”

South Bend is home to one such classical academy, St. Thomas More Academy (STMA). According to its website, STMA is a “private, independent, classical liberal arts [grade] school in Catholic tradition,” much like the schools that Hegseth and Goodwin encourage.

STMA Greek teacher Maggie Doran shared her thoughts about a classical education with the Rover: “A classical education teaches the skills necessary to read, write, and think clearly. It recognizes that we stand on the shoulders of giants, and draws on a two thousand year old tradition ultimately stemming from the educational system of the Ancient Greeks, as well as our Judeo-Christian heritage. A classically educated student will have powers of reasoning trained such that he or she will be able to succeed in any field or profession as an adult.”

On the idea forming a new “Conservative Classical College Board,” Mrs. Doran told the Rover, “Though I am aware there is a lot of disagreement among conservatives on this issue, I think that we should be sending our best and brightest to top mainstream universities, where their future opportunities will not be limited by a degree that does not command wide respect. An intelligent, hard-working student will have no trouble getting a high score on either [type of] exam, and there is no harm in taking both.” 

“I plan to encourage my own six children to do the best they can on the SAT, and to attend the best college they can get into. Credentials work because they are a shorthand for achievement that everyone recognizes and respects. It will be very difficult for the [conservative testing] movement to ever match the influence of the SAT, which has existed since 1926, and it is definitely not there yet.”

Meyrat partially agrees, though he is more optimistic in the long run: “This dream of a classical conservative alternative to the current progressive system will easily take generations to come true.” 

Margaret Mathis is a sophomore studying classical languages who plans to become an attorney. She is most often found sipping chocolate milk in South Dining Hall, playing tunes in the Ceílí Band, and hand-sewing the Notre Dame leprechaun onto everything she owns (which qualifies as “fair use” according to U.S.C. Title XVII Ch.1 § 107 (1)). Reach out to her at

Photo Credit: Sam Balye

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