by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Those of you who have followed with interest the controversy over recent changes in Advanced Placement U.S. history standards might appreciate a Bloomberg Businessweek report about recent developments in Colorado.
The protests were a backlash against conservative efforts both locally and nationally to undo changes to the AP History curriculum, which were released in 2012 by the College Board, the New Jersey-based nonprofit that administers Advanced Placement tests. The guidelines, which went into effect this school year, are more detailed than previous versions and include statements like, “The emergence of an industrial culture in the United States led to both greater opportunities for, and restrictions on, immigrants, minorities, and women.”
In August, the Republican National Committee passed a resolution slamming the College Board for putting forward a “consistently negative view of American history.” In September, the Republican-controlled Texas Education Agency took steps to make sure schools follow the state’s standards, not the College Board’s. “I felt that the framework was imbalanced,” says Barbara Cargill, who chairs the Texas State Board of Education. “There was a lot of emphasis on racial conflict and U.S. expansionism and the excesses of capitalism, as opposed to the benefits of it.” In a speech at the Center for Security Policy, a conservative think tank, neurosurgeon Ben Carson warned, “I think most people, when they finish that course, they’d be ready to go sign up for ISIS.”
“The framework will produce a generation of cynics,” says Larry Krieger, a retired AP History teacher from New Jersey who’s appeared before state legislators and school boards around the country to oppose the guidelines. “Our unity comes from our core values, and each generation has a responsibility to teach those core values.”
The authors of the new curriculum released a statement in August saying that the course outline will better equip students “to carefully compare and contrast the views of leading historians, to debate and discuss historical issues, and to write analytical essays,” just like the university courses that AP classes are designed to emulate. “The new AP U.S. History framework and exam place greater emphasis than previously on historical thinking skills,” Suzanne Sinke, a Florida State University historian who served on the curriculum development committee, said in an e-mail.
In other words, the new standards have been designed to make the indoctrination process a little easier for left-leaning college professors.