By Cathy Keim
“Great is truth, but still greater from a practical point of view is silence about truth.”
– Aldous Huxley
On June 2, 2015, a group of 55 scholars published a letter stating their objections to the Advanced Placement United States History (APUSH) framework that was introduced last year.
Our brightest students take the AP US History course. If they score well on the AP Exam, then they may be exempt from taking a US History survey course at their chosen college. This means that the AP US History course may be the final American history class that they ever take. It is important that it be a solid course that prepares our future leaders to understand and appreciate the strengths of our political and legal systems.
Unfortunately, the APUSH framework exhibits the same fractured ideology that permeates the Common Core Standards.
The new framework is organized around such abstractions as “identity,” “peopling,” “work, exchange, and technology,” and “human geography” while downplaying essential subjects, such as the sources, meaning, and development of America’s ideals and political institutions, notably the Constitution. Elections, wars, diplomacy, inventions, discoveries—all these formerly central subjects tend to dissolve into the vagaries of identity-group conflict. The new framework scrubs away all traces of what used to be the chief glory of historical writing—vivid and compelling narrative—and reduces history to an bloodless interplay of abstract and impersonal forces. Gone is the idea that history should provide a fund of compelling stories about exemplary people and events. No longer will students hear about America as a dynamic and exemplary nation, flawed in many respects, but whose citizens have striven through the years toward the more perfect realization of its professed ideals. The new version of the test will effectively marginalize important ways of teaching about the American past, and force American high schools to teach U.S. history from a perspective that selfconsciously seeks to de-center American history and subordinate it to a global and heavily social-scientific perspective.
I have been having this dispute with progressive family and friends for years. America is not perfect, but where else on this planet has any nation aimed so high and achieved such opportunity for so many? This is the same argument that progressives always make. If you have high moral standards and fail, then they jeer that you are a hypocrite for not attaining perfection. They prefer to wallow in their misery knowing that they will never fail because they have no standards to begin with.
Like it or not, this country was founded on a Judeo-Christian worldview. To understand our history, we must have the background to comprehend why our political system was structured as it was. Our history of liberty is based on eternal principles that are found in the Bible.
Highlighting the negative, expunging all positive events, and casting everything in terms of exploiters oppressing minorities imparts a civic education that will not sustain our country against the challenges of the 21st Century.
Stanley Kurtz gives some examples of the how the change of focus looks:
The framework omits or downplays key themes, as with John Winthrop’s exceptionalist call for the Massachusetts Bay Colony to stand as an exemplary “city upon a hill” and the many echoes of his speech in later history. By diverting attention from the colonies to a globalized “Atlantic World,” the framework shifts the moral center of early American history away from the democratic and religious settlements of New England. The new focus is the South’s plantation system, with its entanglement in the international slave trade. The opening of the West becomes a virtual footnote to the treatment of the Indians.
If this doesn’t sound like the America that you grew up in, then you had better be aware that this is how it is being taught to your student. Parents, you need to be paying attention to what is going on in the school system. I am focusing on APUSH now, but you can be assured that the entire Common Core Standards are all based on fragmented, biased ideas.
Once again we must ask why are we allowing our educational system to be nationalized? Why did the APUSH framework expand from about 5 pages to over 70 pages, thereby taking away any flexibility of the teacher and local school board to direct the curriculum?
Why should the College Board have a monopoly on all the testing that will decide where your student can go to college?
Perhaps it is time to break the monopoly on education. Competing testing companies could and should emerge.
Critics complain that the parents that are unhappy with the new APUSH framework are trying to write history to meet their political ideas. This is clearly a case of the pot calling the kettle black. So let’s have more than one testing company and more than one framework.
Well, that sounds like education as it was before the federal government stepped in. Perhaps it is time to return to local control. Parents, this will only happen if you demand it. All the unions and curriculum writers and publishers and education schools benefit by consolidation and federal control.
They will wail and complain that too much effort has gone into the way things are and that it is too hard to change. Do not be moved. Just reply that we can go back to the old test and framework until a better one can be devised locally.