Culture, Science & Faith

Beware Revising American History Education

Fifty-five scholars take on the College Boards latest test changes.

Jim Harrington · Jun. 3, 2015

The College Board, a nonprofit corporation founded in 1926 to make higher education accessible to more Americans, introduced the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) and, after World War II, the advanced placement (AP) test. Students who score three of five points on the AP test are credited with completing a two-semester introductory college course in subjects like English, math and history. But revisions are coming, and they’re not going to result in better education.

Periodically, the College Board publishes new frameworks to alert schools to changes in AP tests. The latest American history framework has raised a raging controversy over what should be taught in AP U.S. history classes. Indeed, 55 leading American history scholars have condemned the framework in an open letter.

Their letter is worth quoting at length:

“The teaching of American history in our schools faces a grave new risk. … The framework for [the new AP] exam has been dramatically changed, in ways certain to have negative consequences. …

”[The new exam] shortchanges students by imposing on them an arid, fragmentary, and misleading account of American history. We favor instead a … history that is alert to all the ways we have disagreed and fallen short of our ideals, while emphasizing the ways that we remain one nation…

“[F]or many American students the AP test effectively has taken the place of the formerly required U.S. history survey course in colleges and universities, making its structure and contents a matter of even greater importance… Many … will never take another American history course. So it matters greatly what they learn in their last formal encounter with the subject. …

"Rather than issuing detailed guidelines, the College Board has in the past furnished a brief topical outline for teachers, leaving them free to choose what to emphasize. In addition, the previous AP U.S. History course featured a strong insistence on content, i.e., on the students' acquisition of extensive factual knowledge of American history.

"But … the new 2014 framework … repudiates that … approach, centralizes control, deemphasizes content, and promotes a particular interpretation of American history. This interpretation downplays American citizenship and American world leadership in favor of a more global and transnational perspective. The College Board has long enjoyed an effective monopoly on advanced placement testing. The changes … expose the danger in such a monopoly. The result smacks of an ‘official’ account of the American past. …

"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 self-consciously seeks to de-center American history and subordinate it to a global and heavily social-scientific perspective.

"A formal education in American history serves young people best by equipping them for a life of deep and consequential membership in their own society. The College Board’s 2014 framework sadly neglects this essential civic purpose.”

Commenting on the framework, Peter Berkowitz observes, “By obscuring this nation’s founding principles and promise, the College Board’s U.S. history guidelines will erode the next generation’s disposition to preserve what is best in the American political tradition. It will also weaken students' ability to improve our laws and political institutions in light of America’s constitutional commitment to limited government, individual liberty, and equality under law.”

Berkowitz quotes Gordon Wood, “a preeminent scholar of the American founding,” writing some months ago in The Weekly Standard:

“The inequalities of race and gender now permeate much of academic history-writing, so much so that the general reading public that wants to learn about the whole of our nation’s past has had to turn to history books written by non-academics who have no PhDs and are not involved in the incestuous conversations of the academic scholars.”

The College Board’s monopoly is corrosive to America, and that monopoly should be challenged in every possible way. The entire American education system is being converted into a multicultural, one-culture-is-as-good-as-another propaganda machine. The mission of these leftist “educators” is to undermine American Liberty from the earliest age, so grown adults no longer have a frame of reference for the greatness and uniqueness of our nation.

So be sure not only to watch what your child studies in American history next fall, but be prepared to intervene and help pass down an appreciation of Liberty to the next generation.

A great place to start would be The Patriot Post’s own Essential Liberty Pocket Guide. With more than one million in print, it contains our founding Declaration of Independence and Constitution, as well as an inspiring historical introduction to Liberty by our publisher, Mark Alexander. Pass it on.

Click here to show comments