Earlier this week, the College Board released the long-anticipated final version of its AP African-American Studies framework. A full quarter of its first version was dedicated to critical race theory indoctrination. After Florida objected, the College Board released a second version that scrubbed the CRT content and offered a more uplifting emphasis on recent history. Outraged, dozens of leftist groups called for the resignation of College Board CEO David Coleman. In an apparently flustered response, the College Board issued a press release attacking the Florida Department of Education and promised to revise the standards again.
The good news is that the final version is far closer to the moderate second version than the radical first. The bad news is that many of the changes read like petty-minded, status-obsessed concessions to the far Left, not pedagogically reasonable revisions.
The second version introduced a unit on “Black Achievements in Science, Medicine, and Technology.” The final version’s unit is titled “Science, Medicine, and Technology in Black Communities.” It promotes teaching students about mathematician Katherine Johnson and astronaut Mae Jemison, which is all well and good, but NASA isn’t exactly a “black community.” And the new unit deemphasizes achievement in favor of additional material on two black women who were the subjects of scientific experiments (one whose cells were cultured after her death and another who endured an early gynecological procedure without anesthesia).
The second version introduced units on “Black Political Gains” and “The Growth of the Black Middle Class.” Perhaps these titles were too positive for the College Board; they’ve now been consolidated into a single unit on “Economic Growth and Black Political Representation.” In the process, the College Board jettisoned a speech given to the Republican National Convention by Condoleezza Rice in favor of portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama and a poster of Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman in Congress.
In place of a 2011 White House education roundtable between Colin Powell and Barack Obama, the framework now contains Powell’s 1994 commencement address to Howard University. It’s an interesting choice, given that Powell defended on free-speech grounds a speech by black militant Khalid Muhammad in which he declared “I am going to be like a pit bull. That is the way I am going to be against the Jews. I am going to bite the tail of the honkies,” and expressed admiration for someone who had committed a mass shooting against white people. In response to Muhammad’s speech, a Howard trustee objected that the university had “become an open-air marketplace for the peddlers of hate, and it must stop.” Powell disagreed. That was his prerogative, but it’s more than a little odd that the framework’s only representation of a contemporary conservative black political figure or thinker is a speech defending anti-Jewish and anti-white hatred on First Amendment grounds.
Another telling choice, given recent events, was the final framework’s renaming of a unit from “Diasporic Solidarity: African Americans and Decolonization in Africa” to “Anticolonialism and Black Political Thought.” In light of the recent public justification of Hamas’s acts of rape and infanticide on “anticolonial” grounds, it’s unfortunate that the College Board chose this moment to suggest that anticolonialism is an official Black Political Opinion.
The board revised a two-day unit on “Overlapping Dimensions of Black Life” into a one-day unit on “Interlocking Systems of Oppression.” No more “Black Women and Movements in the 20th Century,” featuring Toni Morrison. Now it’s “The Black Feminist Movement, Womanism, and Intersectionality,” featuring critical race theorist Kimberlé Crenshaw and the Combahee River Collective Statement, arguably the founding document of identity politics.
The second draft of the framework moved controversial partisan issues such as prison abolition or reparations to an optional additional project unit, and it tried to balance out the partisanship by recommending that students could explore black political conservatism. The final version recommends that the teacher offer up to five instructional days on issues like reparations or abolition but conspicuously drops the suggestion about black conservatism.
On the whole, however, the final framework is not a profoundly objectionable exercise in indoctrination. It would be reasonable for a school superintendent in a red state that has banned critical race theory to permit it to be taught. But it would also be reasonable for Florida to insist against it, as it’s still grotesque in places. The revisions read more like a ham-fisted reaction to the criticisms of leftist activists than thoughtful refinements to enhance teaching and learning. Whatever states choose to do with the new framework, they should seriously consider dropping the College Board’s SAT in favor of the ACT. American school curricula should not be governed by the whims of a petty nonprofit.
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