Conservatives Call AP History Course ‘Anti-American’

Conservative activists are saying that the new outline for Advanced Placement (AP) US History is anti-American, based on the fact that it downplays or omits the country’s most heroic persons and most of the country’s military victories.

The Associated Press reports that the College Board official who leads the AP program told education officers this week that critics have misinterpreted the “framework’s purpose” and that this course is not meant to be a listing of names and events — nor was its predecessor.

AP official Trevor Parker says the outline for the course is meant to give instructors a better idea of concepts that students in a college-level course would examine.  He adds that individual teachers and state standards will decide what is taught. Education Oversight Committee members remind that they have no authority over College Board or Advanced Placement exams.

However, in an article for The Federalist, Larry Krieger and Jane Robbins write that there are five reasons why the College Board’s US History talking points are wrong.  First, the article points out that the critics of the Advanced Placement US History (APUSH) are not a “small fringe group“.  The authors list many historians, professors, scholars, history department heads, and writers of history who agree that the new APUSH Framework is slanted, intellectually dishonest, and designed to showcase negative events while minimizing or ignoring positive events.

Second, scholars who were asked to read the framework said:

 The English, the curriculum notes, developed a ‘rigid racial hierarchy.’ It also notes the ‘strong belief in British racial and cultural superiority’ and the ‘racial stereotyping and the development of strict racial categories among British colonists…’” As these authors point out, the Framework either ignores or only briefly mentions the rise of democratic institutions, the emergence of a federal system of government, and the colonists’ growing commitment to religious freedom. The new “redesigned” APUSH course sidelines or utterly ignores these basic concepts that are essential to understanding U.S. history.

Simply put, say the writers, the new framework has a clear bias and a left-leaning agenda.

Third, the framework seems to ignore state standards which have been legally adopted as guides for US history courses and exams.  According to the article, the framework circumvents state standards and is so flawed that teachers will not be able to instruct students well.

Fourth, the facts presented in the framework do not coincide with the questions on the exam and “the sample exam confirms the pervasive biases found in the framework”.

Fifth, APUSH has always been a survey course that allows teachers to incorporate state standards to include the breadth of knowledge that an educated American should have, “not a course that is being held hostage by a small group of revisionist college professors”.

Texas is on the move to veto the APUSH course.  Michele Richinick, reporting for MSNBC, writes that representatives in Texas decided to begin the process by requiring high school students to learn only state-mandated curriculum.  The powers that be say that the Texas history curriculum can outdo the material covered in APUSH.  The new AP exam will be given in May near the end of the semester.

Frederick M. Hess and Chester E. Finn, Jr., writing for the National Review, also give their opinions on the debate.  They say not all of the criticisms are hysterical and inaccurate.  They add that the framework is ideologically slanted and does have a 21st century progressivist bias. But, they say, this is how history is generally taught in colleges.

Which means their content will be driven primarily by what college professors teach in their own lecture halls. Which, in turn, means that every pedagogical and political fad to be found on today’s postmodern campuses will creep into courses taught to high schoolers.

They add that the College Board is eager to annually revamp the course framework and is open to “robust critique”, including feedback from myriad perspectives.  Still, they say, it is necessary to demand that the College Board do what is necessary to give our high school students a fair and full-bodied account of our nation’s history.