Monday, August 11, 2014

GOP Trying to Rewrite AP History

There has been a lot of concern with the Common Core in South Dakota.  Some think of it as a version of mind control by the Obama Administration to turn our youth into drug smoking, peace-loving hippies (or something like that)!  There was a move to supplant the Common Core, to slow down the Common Core standards, push for the teaching of "personhood," and encourage the teaching of intelligent design.  Now it seems that many in the National GOP are going after the AP History tests.  Last year, the College Board made some revisions to the test and the material that goes with it as a guide to instructors.  The RNC doesn't like it.

The Republican National Commitee is calling for a fight against the College Board's new framework for Advanced Placement U.S. History, claiming that it  "deliberately distorts and/or edits out important historical events." 
The new framework "reflects a radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation's history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects," said aresolution adopted by the RNC on Friday at its summer meeting in Chicago. 
The resolution demands that the College Board delay for at least one year its plan to debut the framework in high schools this fall. It urges that a committee be convened to draft a new AP U.S. history framework that is "consistent both with the APUSH course's traditional mission, with state history standards, and with the desires of U.S. parents and other citizens for their students to learn the true history of their country." And it calls on Congress to "investigate this matter" and withhold any funding to the College Board until a suitable framework is produced.
One of the groups leading a charge against these revisions is National Association of Scholars.  This group is basically bankrolled by conservative groups.  From my basic understanding of Peter Wood's, the head of the organization, writing is that he is bothered by the non-harsh treatment of Native Americans before the founding of Jamestown.
The story embedded in APUSH is the familiar one of materialist social progress. It moves from the aboriginal situation to the “Columbian Exchange,” i.e. the account of how Europeans introduced deadly epidemics, slavery, and plantations, and extracted natural resources, while native peoples struggled to hold on.  
The real history is a lot more complicated than that. Native peoples had been engaged in perpetual warfare with one another, including conquest and genocide, for thousands of years; had developed complex long-distance trade and alliances; had absorbed Western-introductions such as horses; had built complexly different and contrasting social systems; had made their own (often highly destructive) mark on the natural world; and were culturally diverse.  To ask high school students to wade into this asks a lot. But APUSH doesn’t try. Instead, it offers the baseline for American history as a continent of thriving, autonomous, civilized, ecologically well-adapted American Indian communities suddenly confronted with the crisis of European conquest.  
The conquest was certainly real and it is a history worth knowing, but if U.S. history is to begin with native North America, we need something more tough-minded than this “ecological Indian” story. 
that it likes things like too much support for Democratic party victories like Roosevelt's New Deal:
Sometimes APUSH slips all the way over to ideological cant.  In a section on the Great Depression (Key Concept 7.2) we learn: 
Although the New Deal did not completely overcome the Depression, it left a legacy of reforms and agencies that endeavored to make society and individuals more secure, and it helped foster a long-term political realignment in which many ethnic groups, African Americans, and working-class communities identified with the Democratic Party.
This sounds like the voice of the Democratic Party itself.  It simply sets aside the numerous economists who argue that the New Deal prolonged and deepened the Depression and that its legacy of “reforms” fostered patterns of dependency and the arrogation of extra-Constitutional powers to the federal government.  
 My guess is that the guide, like the Common Core, if far from perfect.  I think a lot of the concern will depend on how people attempt to push the implementation.  I do not teach AP History and our school does not offer it.  The College Board points out that new guides are designed to be flexible:
Asked for a response to the RNC resolution, College Board spokeswoman Carly Lindauer said in an email that the new AP U.S. history framework, developed and "overwhelmingly supported by" college faculty and expert AP teachers, is "built to be flexible." 
"It allows for a focus on state priorities, as well as teacher and parent choices that best fit the needs of their individual students," she wrote. "The new course emphasizes the American founding documents and their essential role in our nation's history, and recognizes American heroism, courage, and innovation. College Board leaders continue to meet with individuals who have concerns about the redesign to listen and receive feedback."
I would love to hear from anyone that teaches AP History or History in general.  My feeling is that this will become a continued War on Whites type of cheer that will attempt to rewrite any possible wrong doing from history textbooks.

Update: The College Board has responded to the RNC by releasing a practice copy of the AP US History test to the public.  It is a PDF file, but you can see it here.  The current President of the College Board states:
"We hope that the release of this exam will address the principled confusion that the new framework produced," he wrote. "The concerns are based on a significant misunderstanding. Just like the previous framework, the new framework does not remove individuals or events that have been taught by AP teachers in prior years. Instead, it is just a framework, requiring teachers to populate it with content required by their local standards and priorities."
We will see if this is enough for the RNC. 

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