August 8 2014

American History Advanced Placement: Benjamin Who?

Charlotte Hays

Remember when taking an advanced placement—AP—class meant that you might learn a little more about the subject at hand than some of your classmates?

Well, forget that--at least for for the AP courses in American history. Fox News reports:

New history curriculum standards proposed for top high school students leave out such American icons as Benjamin Franklin and Martin Luther King, Jr., paint colonists as bigots and gloss over the Greatest Generation's fight to save the world from Nazi Germany, according to conservative education activists who want the framework delayed — and perhaps scrapped altogether.

An open letter circulated by conservative education activists is calling on The College Board to delay implementing new Advanced Placement U.S. History guidelines, saying a “rising tide of opposition” believes the curriculum will take the nation’s classrooms in a bad direction.

The Aug. 4 letter, which is addressed to David Coleman, president/CEO of the New York-based nonprofit, claims the new 98-page curriculum is a “dramatic departure” from the five-page outline previously used by teachers and students and offers a consistently negative view of Americans as oppressors and exploiters.

Maybe the name should be changed from advanced placement to grievance history? MIA in the new standards, according the protest letter: John Winthrop and his “city upon a hill” sermon, the House of Burgesses, a landmark in the development of our democratic institutions, and Thomas Jefferson.

American history is reportedly seen as an endless tale of bigotry and subjugation of people in the name of white superiority, according to the letter.

Meanwhile, an official at the College Board said that it “continues to meet with individuals who have concerns about the redesign to listen, solicit feedback and find solutions.” That is educationist speak for what the College Board appears to be doing: not very much, if it can get by with this.

Like most countries, the United States has some flaws, and history students should read about our failures. But, if the authors of the protest letter are accurate, the picture of American history presented in the AP standards is a damned lie. It is ideologically-driven drivel.

If this is what our best students are being taught, it is no wonder that our citizens don’t have basic literacy about our nation’s history.

It will be interesting to see how College Board CEO David Coleman responds to this. Coleman is a key figure on the development of the Common Core State Standards—indeed, Wikipedia says that he is described as the “architect of Common Core.” He joined the College Board organization two years ago.

Parents who oppose Common Core have been critical of the mechanisms being put in place to test the proficiency of students in the post-Common Core world. This is a chance for David Coleman either to allay their fears by doing something about these standards—or prove them right. We’ll see.

 

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