All the ways the new AP US history standards gloss over the country’s racist past

Roundup
tags: APUSH



Jake is a reporter at Quartz. He was previously a digital writer for The New York Times, and prior to that, an editorial fellow with The Atlantic. Obsessions include geopolitics, human rights, and postcolonialism.

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The College Board, the non-profit company that designs Advanced Placement tests for US high schools, has announced new standards for its AP US history curriculum. The revisions are “clearer and more historically precise, and less open to misinterpretation or perceptions of imbalance,” according to a statement released July 30.

These standards are guidelines by which AP US history teachers are to craft their lesson plans. The ultimate goal is to prepare students to take the AP US history examination at the end of the year. High exam scores may count toward college credit, saving university-bound students some money and time (AP credits may also be used to fulfill general education requirements at some institutions).

The revisions come after the 2014 standards were vocally criticized by conservatives for being “anti-American” and focusing too forcefully on “divisive” topics, such as slavery, Jim Crow laws, and the Trail of Tears. The Republican National Committee complained that the 2014 standards reflected “a radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects.” State legislatures in Texas, Georgia, and Oklahoma all introduced bills to eliminate the course from public high schools.

In the face of criticism, the College Board blinked—and future generations of US high school students will pay the price.

The revised AP curriculum significantly tones down language (and even mentions) of racial tension throughout US history. To illustrate, page 35 of the 2014 standards reads:

“Many Europeans developed a belief in white superiority to justify their subjugation of Africans and American Indians, using several different rationales.”


This statement has been removed from the 2015 standards, and replaced with the softer (hardly more “historically precise”) idea that interracial interaction in the colonial and antebellum years spurred “evolving religious, cultural, and racial justifications for [their] subjugation.” ...




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