Conservatives Love The New AP U.S. History Standards – And That’s A Problem

In the summer of 2014, the College Board issued new guidelines for teachers of Advanced Placement U.S. History, the first update since 2006. The 2014 framework, intended to help teachers prepare students for a new AP exam, signaled a big shift away from important names and events toward interpretation and comprehension.

For many teachers, it was a welcome break from the slog of having to force their students to memorize endless numbers of facts, and instead being able to foster the much more important skills of analysis and argument.

However, the reaction amongst conservatives was immediate and harsh. The standards were criticized as being “anti-American.” Specific objections ranged from the framework stating that the nation’s founders believed in “white superiority” and that white Southerners had “pride in the institution of slavery” to a line calling former President Ronald Reagan “bellicose.”

The Republican National Committee even got involved and passed a resolution that called the framework “radically revisionist,” while several states introduced proposals hoping to force a revision.

Bizarrely, at one point, Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson went so far as to argue that the Advanced Placement course might encourage young Americans to “sign up for ISIS”!

To many people’s surprise, the College Board listened to the arguments, decided to do another revision, and even hired some of the loudest critics to work on those changes. The College Board has just released the new curriculum framework for its AP U.S. history course, and it appears to have satisfied many of the old framework’s critics.

In doing so, the Board has either glossed over or completely ignored many important issues such as racism and slavery.

This is especially important because it affects a large number of young people. America doesn’t have a national history curriculum, but the AP U.S. history course comes close. Last year, nearly half a million high school students sat for this AP exam.

Here are just a few of the changes:

In the 2014 version, Europeans “helped increase the intensity and destructiveness of American Indian warfare.” Now it says simply that the Europeans’ introduction of guns and alcohol “stimulated changes” in native communities.

In the 2014 section on World War II, students were given specific details about Japanese internment camps and the atomic bomb. In the new version, students are told simply that Americans saw the war as a fight for freedom and against fascism.

President Reagan is no longer “bellicose” toward the Soviet Union but rather gives “speeches” and engages in “a buildup of nuclear and conventional weapons.”

The 2014 version stated: “Many Europeans developed a belief in white superiority to justify their subjugation of Africans and American Indians, using several different rationales.” By 2015, we read that interracial interaction in the colonial and antebellum years spurred “evolving religious, cultural, and racial justifications for [their] subjugation.”

You get the idea.

These changes are part of a dangerous trend in education to gloss over or ignore any problems in U.S. history. Thus, Arizona banned ethnic studies classes as “leading to communism,” the Texas textbook standards largely ignore anyone of color in the history of the state, the Tennessee Tea Party tried to ban all mention of slavery in their textbooks, and now we have these new AP standards.

There’s also another problem: the revised 2014 standards were very similar to the Common Core standards, in encouraging students to think for themselves, and develop their own arguments based on evidence. Conservatives don’t like the idea of students thinking for themselves, so they rose up against these standards.

At a time when the U.S. still has a “gaping racial wound,” to quote Jon Stewart, our public education system should be taking a stand for the truth, not trying to minimize any issues they find unpleasant.

 

98 comments

Lorrie O
Lorrie O4 months ago

The only Isis is Isis, Goddess, Supreme Good Goddess. Pledge is pledge allegiance to the Flag, Blue Flag, iris versicolor. Prism, ism is the only ism. FrOM iris to Iris, Goddess, Creator, and to Isis, Goddess, Preserver: the iris versicolor co- operation, the Life do, the neither forced conception death business, nor rape death business, neither adoption death business, nor abortion death business, Supreme Truth Supreme Good Life do.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill3 years ago

I have an idea. Why don't we start teaching truth? Just teach what actually happened and leave the opinions, conclusions alone. Let everyone make their own opinions, conclusions.

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Pamela Thomas
Pamela Thomas3 years ago

I've commented on this once, but really, seriously. This is so frustrating I must say something again. First, I'm a born again christian, and I truly believe in Jesus. I wonder and ponder what makes Republicans think they know so much about Jesus? How dare they blow such a loud trumpet of the wrongs of America, and they are one of the biggest problems. I read how they tried to rewrite the history books a few years back in Mr. Evangelist Rick Perry state Texas. How they were going to white wash slavery and paint it as an economical ordeal. Yes, it was economical alright. And now this A.P. development. I had to call my daughter and make her aware of this crap. My granddaughter is beginning A.P. classes. It goes back to what I always preached, teached, admonished, begged and pleaded w/my own children. Study for yourselves, don't just believe everything you read, go to whatever school you choose, but don't just sit there w/an empty head and let them fill it w/rhetoric. Yes, I'm a Christian that believes a woman has a right to choose, and other things that republican Christians say are taboos. But what make them an authority on Christanity...I'm not that impressed.

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Kathryn Irby
Past Member 3 years ago

Conservatives love harping on "Christianity"; of course, which includes prayer in schools and Ronald Reagan, the God of the Rethug Party!

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Debbi -.
Debbi -3 years ago

Dan B., Wish I could give you more stars but system won't allow it within the hour. Ughhh.

From the time I was very young I always asked, 'why,' 'how,' peppering everyone with questions. Fortunately my grandmother, who raised, encouraged my curiosity. In our family I talked about everything with our sons, and encouraged them to tell me why they felt a certain way or how they came to believe something. There were a few marathon sessions where we discussed issues until I felt satisfied they they had fully understood what their questionable belief could mean in the future, taking it forward. My husband was always comfortable with this approach, but I felt they needed to learn the importance of some decisions. One seemingly small decision could affect your future, if you followed it through.

There was no topic that was out of bounds so politics, questions about religion, history, and sex were all discussed at some point. I watched the news each evening with them, and we talked about it. I took every opportunity (sometimes from what we watched on TV) to bring up ideas and asked how they felt about it. I wanted them to think about things, question, not accept what an instructor might teach by rote.

It is amazing how many teachers become angry when a student questions a fact they've quoted and can't back-up. It's scary to think how many father's control the family with a iron fist, so to speak, not tolerating anyone questioning them. There is now a generation of

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Kathryn Irby
Past Member 3 years ago

I get to sick and tired of them spouting off about their Lover, Ronald Reagan. Every single one of them would have loved to crawl in the sack with that old Fool. Thank you for sharing.

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Joanne Dixon
Joanne Dixon3 years ago

Sheelagh O - Parents teaching their children to think for themselves is a lovely idea, but there is the limitation that one cannot teach what one does not have. Children of parents who think for themselves will probably pick that up. Children of parents who don't think for themselves will not learn how to do so from their parents.

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Victoria Fellner
Victoria Fellner3 years ago

Mitch D, I would give you 1000 stars if I could.

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