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High School African American Studies Program Is Less History, More Marxism And Voodoo

voodoo dancer
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If APAAS were actually a serious study of the black experience in America, there would be readings from thinkers across the ideological spectrum rather than entire lessons about voodoo.


This year, a new AP high school program was launched: Advanced Placement African American Studies (APAAS). The pilot program was introduced at 60 high schools across the country, with plans to add many more schools next year. “The curriculum will be an interdisciplinary look at the history of civil rights in the U.S., as well as African American music and other topics,” NPR benignly reported earlier this year. Except a number of reports — including a Dec. 2 Washington Post article featured on the front page of the print edition — indicate AP African American Studies is far from harmless, promoting, among other things, voodoo.

Though the College Board, which manages the AP program, has been oddly secretive about the content of APAAS, National Review reporter Stanley Kurtz acquired a copy of the course’s curriculum framework. His report on that framework demonstrates the aggressive anti-American, Marxist content of the course.

APAAS features readings from scholar Robin D. G. Kelley, who argues that authentic black studies requires revolutionary study and activism outside of academics. Kelley posits that norms of objectivity must be rejected in favor of Marx’s call for “a ruthless criticism of everything existing” and a subsequent struggle against power structures. Though the topics in the curriculum sound neutral, Kurtz observes that “the readings almost uniformly consist of neo-Marxist agitation — pleas for a socialist transformation of America.” That includes the anti-American Frantz Fanon, who called the United States “a monster, in which the taints, the sickness, and the inhumanity of Europe have grown to appalling dimensions.” Critical race theory (CRT) advocates Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and Patricia Hill Collins are also on the reading list.

We also know that APAAS’s curriculum “content writing team” is staffed by leftist racial ideologues such as Joshua M. Myers of Howard University, who believes that “Black radical tradition” should be synonymous with black studies. Moreover, a significantly large portion of the APAAS curriculum is devoted to the history of black studies, vice the history of black people (imagine, by comparison, an AP European History course that focused on the history of European historical scholarship). “This seems oddly self-referential, until you realize it’s a strategy for teaching about radicalism without quite seeming to do so,” writes Kurtz.

A Lot of Theory and Fluff, Not Many Facts

“I don’t teach theory. I teach facts,” Patrice Frasier, a Baltimore-based APAAS teacher, told The Washington Post. “The purpose is not to indoctrinate them or guide them in some kind of political philosophy. … The story is so much more complex than simply White people versus Black people,” Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, a professor of African American Studies at Harvard University, told the Post.

Yet plenty of reporting on the APAAS curriculum indicates that’s hardly the case. APAAS content, according to a Time article, includes “the significance of the Marvel Black Panther movie” and an opportunity to study “the reparations movement and Black Lives Matter activism.” Intersectionality is reportedly “a key tenet of the class,” according to the Smithsonian Magazine. “Students will learn how to advocate for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) — in and outside of postsecondary environments,” notes a report from Best Colleges.

Forgive me if APAAS sounds like a course aimed at further engendering woke activism among American high schoolers. Indeed, that same Best Colleges report on APAAS adds: “By studying America’s past and present mistakes, society can create a future that is free of social disparity, bias, and discrimination.” A future free of social disparity? Isn’t that a key tenet of Marxism? It’s also entirely blinkered, given that social and economic hierarchies, though often unjust, are a natural human phenomenon. Even the most communist nations cannot extinguish such hierarchies — in fact, they inevitably aggravate them, through corruption and policies that vitiate human freedom.

Moreover, as the WaPo’s report on Frasier’s APAAS lesson shows, the course invests a lot of energy trying to persuade students that voodoo is not strange or evil, but a legitimate religion suppressed by white supremacists. After a pro-voodoo video, students regurgitate details, including, “White people felt like it was empowering to Black people.” Another student declares: “It made me think that not everything has to be bad. … There could be alternate ways of looking at things.” Voodoo, readers should remember, involves adherents becoming possessed by spirits, engaging in divination, causing harm to other people, and even ritualistic cannibalism.

If APAAS were actually a serious, neutral study of the black experience in America, one would think there would be readings from thinkers across the political and ideological spectrum rather than entire lessons about voodoo. Yet there is no indication that critics of CRT or black radicalism — such as John McWhorter, Glenn Loury, Robert Woodson, or Shelby Steele — are included in the APAAS curriculum.

“Those courses [such as APAAAS] will siphon off students from American history and other more conventional subject areas, bringing campus-style balkanization and politicization to K–12,” argues Kurtz. That, unfortunately, seems the likely result of an APAAS coming to a school district near you. And if your high schooler comes home expressing interest in learning more about how they too might participate in voodoo rituals, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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