Is this any way to teach U.S. history?

tags: APUSH

John C. “Chuck” Chalberg teaches American history at Normandale Community College in Bloomington.

For most of our history, the teaching of history (and most everything else) has been a local concern. No longer, thanks to centralizers in both major political parties. The federal Department of Education was born under President Jimmy Carter and has continued to grow, no matter the administration. No Child Left Behind was a legacy of George W. Bush (and Ted Kennedy). And now comes Common Core.

Part of Common Core is an effort to set national advanced placement (AP) standards for the teaching of American history. Three questions arise. Is this a good idea on the face of it? If so, what should those standards be? And beyond all that, should there be a national curriculum?

In many European countries that’s exactly what there is. A European minister of education knows precisely what’s being taught in what subject across the country. Not so in America. At least not yet.

But if those who favor national standards win the day, future secretaries of education will, like their European counterparts, know how each historical topic is supposed to be presented.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the recommended post-Civil-War American history “curriculum framework.” This was the age of great business growth, including the rise of the corporation and, yes, monopolies. There is nothing wrong with pointing out any of this. Business certainly did grow; corporations did rise, and monopolies did monopolize — or at least try to...

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