Conservatives complaining that AP test reflects left-wing biasHistorians in the News
tags: Advanced Placement
A dramatic, unilateral change is taking place in the content of the College Board’s Advanced Placement U.S. history course. In fall 2014, almost half a million high school sophomores and juniors will learn a very different version of U.S. history from the course of study now in place. Currently, a five-page topical outline gives teachers clear guideline for their course. This long-established outline conforms to the sequence of topics state and local boards of education have approved. In contrast, the new, redesigned Framework is a detailed 98-page document that does far more than list required topics.
This change in format is best described as a curricular coup that sets a number of dangerous precedents. By providing a detailed course of study that defines, discusses, and interprets “the required knowledge of each period,” the College Board has in effect supplanted local and state curriculum by unilaterally assuming the authority to prioritize historic topics. This inevitably means that some topics will be magnified in importance while others will be minimized or even omitted. If concerned parents, educators, and elected public officials do not speak out, the College Board (led by David Coleman, generally considered the architect of the Common Core national standards) will continue to develop similar frameworks for its 33 other Advanced Placement (AP) courses and thus become an unelected de facto legislature for America’s public and private high schools.
Frowning at American History
The new Framework inculcates a consistently negative view of American culture. For example, the units on colonial America stress the development of a “rigid racial hierarchy” and a “strong belief in British racial and cultural superiority.” The Framework ignores the United States’ founding principles and their influence in inspiring the spread of democracy and galvanizing the movement to abolish slavery. The Framework continues this theme by reinterpreting Manifest Destiny—rather than a belief that America has a mission to spread democracy and new technologies across the continent, the Framework teaches that it “was built on a belief in white racial superiority and a sense of American cultural superiority.”
The units on colonial America focus unbalanced attention on the conflicts between the colonists and Native Americans. While students will learn about the Beaver Wars, Chickasaw Wars, and King Philip’s War, they will learn little or nothing about the rise of religious toleration, the development of democratic institutions, and the emergence of a society that included a rich mix of ethnic groups.
A particularly troubling failure of the Framework is its dismissal of the Declaration of Independence and the principles so eloquently expressed there. The Framework’s entire discussion of this seminal document consists of just one phrase in one sentence: “The colonists’ belief in the superiority of republican self-government based on the natural rights of the people found its clearest American expression in Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and in the Declaration of Independence.” The Framework thus ignores the philosophical underpinnings of the Declaration and the willingness of the signers to pledge “our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor” to the cause of freedom.
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