History abridged – New AP curriculum troubling

By Larry Krieger / Contributing Writer / Orange County Register

Published: Aug. 18, 2014 Updated: 5:44 p.m.

How would you describe the American experience? Since our nation’s founding, generations of Americans have looked to America as a land of liberty, opportunity and democracy. President Ronald Reagan gave enduring expression to these values by referring to America as a “shining city” to express his ideal of a nation that is “God-blessed and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace.”

This optimistic view of America did not inspire the anonymous authors of the College Board’s redesigned AP U.S. History (APUSH) curriculum. Returning students, about 60,000 California sophomores and juniors, will be taught a very different curriculum from the one mandated by California’s History–Social Science Framework. The new course of study is best described as a curricular coup that will override state guidelines and indoctrinate students with a radically flawed reinterpretation of American history.

The College Board’s redesigned curriculum is totally antithetical to the goals and content of the California Framework. The California Framework has exhorted a generation of teachers to “emphasize the importance of history as a story well told.” Inspired by their state standards, California teachers focused on forceful personalities whose struggles and triumphs demonstrated courage and conviction. Teachers enriched their lessons with vivid literary excerpts recommended by the California Framework.

In stark contrast, the College Board Framework states that its goal is to train a new generation of students to become what it calls “apprentice historians.” These 10th and 11th grade apprentice historians will read, interpret and argue about informational texts. The 98-page College Board document does not recommend a single work of literature. In addition, the just released College Board Sample Exam does not contain a single reference to a work of literature.

The content of the College Board document inculcates a consistently negative and superficial view of the American experience. For example, the College Board’s anonymous authors dispatch World War II with the following two sentences: “The mass mobilization of American society to supply troops for the war effort and a workforce on the home front ended the Great Depression and provided opportunities for women and minorities to improve their socioeconomic positions. Wartime experiences, such as the internment of Japanese Americans, challenges to civil liberties, debates over race and segregation, and the decision to drop the atomic bomb raised questions about American values.”

In contrast to this shallow and biased coverage, the now-discarded California Framework contains standards that call upon teachers to begin their discussion of World War II by examining the rise of fascism in Germany and militarism in Japan. The California curriculum then recommends that teachers include material about the sacrifices of American soldiers who fought in such key battles as Midway, Normandy, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and the Battle of the Bulge. Students also examine Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms, discuss the constitutional issues involved in the Japanese internment and investigate Hitler’s atrocities against Jews and other minorities.

The College Board’s coverage of World War II is not an isolated example. Although it is 98-pages long, the College Board’s AP U.S. History Framework could only find space for the following sentence about the Korean and Vietnam Wars: “The United States sought to contain Soviet-dominated communism through a variety of measures, including military engagements in Korea and Vietnam.” That’s it!

But at least the College Board Framework mentioned the Korean and Vietnam wars. While the College Board’s anonymous authors did find space for the Students for a Democratic Society, they failed to even mention Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The College Board knows that it has a problem. What if citizens in California, and across America, object to having their history standards usurped by their new Framework? In an effort to placate irate teachers and parents, the College Board claims that teachers have the flexibility to include materials from their state standards.

The College Board’s flexibility doctrine is contradicted by its own unequivocal statement: “Beginning with the May 2015 AP U.S. History Exam, no AP U.S. History Exam questions will require students to know historic content that falls outside of this concept outline.” The just-released Sample AP U.S. History exam clearly reveals that all of the test questions are firmly anchored in the College Board Framework. So California teachers do have the freedom to use excerpts from The Grapes of Wrath and teach stories about the indomitable will of Holocaust survivors. However, these topics will not be tested on the APUSH exam.

The College Board Framework has sparked shock and outrage across America.

Concerned parents are urging their elected public officials to demand that the College Board delay the implementation of the new course, while restoring the previous course that did not circumvent the guidelines legally enacted by the California History-Social Science Framework.

Larry Krieger has taught urban, rural and suburban students in a teaching career that began in 1970. He is the author of leading U.S. History, World History and AP prep books that are used throughout the country.

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