A.P. U.S. History curriculum under attack

Advanced Placement United States History (APUSH) is a class that challenges students to read, memorize, and think critically at a fast pace. However, is the course also teaching students to be unpatriotic?

The College Board implemented a new framework this fall for APUSH classes across the country. The new curriculum reflects changes to the test, which allows students to draw their own conclusions through open-ended questions. Seeing this as a threat to “patriotic” or “accurate” teachings of American history, the Republican National Committee (RNC) strongly opposes the new framework and has requested that the College Board wait a year to finalize their changes.

According to the RNC resolution on APUSH, the committee wants to delay the changes so that they can review the curriculum and ensure that it is “consistent with both the 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.”

The controversy over APUSH gained media attention this fall, when students in Jefferson County, Colorado, protested the school board’s decision to review the APUSH curriculum to ensure that it is promoting American exceptionalism. This proposal resulted in student protests at Jefferson County’s 17 public high schools.

Julie Williams, a representative from the Jefferson High school board, told PBS that “Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law. Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage.” Williams and many conservatives across the country are looking to change the APUSH curriculum that was implemented this fall.

Several groups across the country have tried to change the APUSH curriculum to make it about “American exceptionalism.” An example of this is “HB 1380,” a bill proposed by Oklahoma Republican legislator Bill Fisher that would stop all funding to A.P. U.S. programs in public schools. The bill also provides an alternative curriculum that would, as he claims, represent American history in a more positive and accurate way.  As Fisher told Politico this fall, “Under the new framework, the emphasis of instruction is on America as a nation of oppressors and exploiters.” This bill passed 11-4 with conservative support in Oklahoma.

The Dana APUSH class has discussed the flexibility of the new APUSH curriculum. As the College Board states, this change “allows teachers flexibility across nine different periods of U.S. history to teach topics of their choice in depth.” Critical thinking and “big picture” discussions seem to be at the core of the new curriculum. Social Studies teacher Eric Goodson emphasizes that the new curriculum is flexible for both students and teachers, saying that “It’s a very general guideline that allows you to move in a whole lot of different directions. Basically, the test is going to increasingly allow students to choose the direction of their arguments.”

At Dana, APUSH students are concerned about this controversy. Julia Albert ’16, who takes Mr. Goodson’s APUSH class, comments, “Although some would argue that the course is too critical of the United States, I believe the information that we learn in the course is unbiased. By not offering the course or modifying it, the history of America becomes biased and is not an accurate representation of history.” Albert feels that it is an important class because it is challenging and pushes students to think critically about U.S. history.

APUSH student Elizabeth Fulham ’16 also defends the curriculum, stating, “I don’t agree with the idea of APUSH emphasizing American exceptionalism.” Fulham believes that the people need to understand the importance of learning from mistakes. She continues, “In order to learn about the history of the U.S, we need to understand past mistakes and avoid making them in the future. In studying all of U.S. history, we can prevent certain aspects of history from repeating itself.”

There is a consensus among several Dana Hall students that APUSH is a necessary class because of its honest view of American history. As the new curriculum is implemented in the upcoming year, it is yet to be seen how conservatives will continue to fight the College Board. While conservatives might inspire change in school boards across the country, for now it seems that APUSH at Dana is here to stay.

Sources for this article include Concordia Online Education, New York Magazine, Education Week, Politico, and PBS.

Image Source: Huffington Post 


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