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Critics of Common Core turn attention to AP U.S. History

A handful of Georgians are concerned about what's being taught in Advanced Placement U.S. History.

I have a simple solution. Don’t have your child or grandchild take the accelerated class.

Georgia has pushed high school students to take more AP classes because colleges look upon them favorably.

Now, according to AJC education reporter Eric Stirgus, some folks are showing up at Gwinnett County school board meetings to complain the AP U.S. History course excludes D-Day and the Battle of Bunker Hill and promotes "anti-America" themes.

Here is an excerpt of the AJC news story:

The complaints are the latest manifestation of a debate that began last summer when the College Board unveiled some changes to the AP U.S. history course framework. The AP course is an elective designed by the College Board, which also administers the SAT college-entrance exam.

The Republican National Committee passed a resolution in August asking the College Board to delay the framework for a year, branding it "a radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation's history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects." A Colorado school board's reaction against the course prompted widespread protest and a student walkout; the Texas board of education went on record against allowing the new curriculum framework; and legislators and activists in South Carolina and Tennessee are discussing similar moves.

The critics want Gwinnett to return to the old framework and exam this year. They plan to reiterate their concerns at Gwinnett's school board meeting today. "Don't mess with our history, and don't mess with our kids' views of America, its greatness and its heroes,” one Gwinnett resident, Judy Craft, said in an email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Gwinnett officials say they don't plan any changes to the coursework. They acknowledge the course doesn't identify some historical figures, but say those people are mentioned in class. One classroom where the course is taught has laminated information about King, a cardboard cutout of former President Ronald Reagan and copies of documents like the U.S. Constitution.

To date, there's been little public resistance to the course in other metro school districts, but many Georgia conservatives worry that social studies and history courses are being taught with a liberal bias or espouse a negative view of America.

Craft and her husband, Ken, said they became troubled by AP materials and other English/language arts textbooks Gwinnett may use when the district put them on display last fall. The Crafts have two grandchildren in the Gwinnett district and have been vocal opponents of implementing the Common Core education standards in Georgia. The Crafts and others said the school district or the state should have some oversight of the AP framework.

Gwinnett school board chairman Daniel Seckinger said he agrees with much of what the critics say. Seckinger, like other Gwinnett officials, noted the course is an elective and the district does not include materials that are not part of Gwinnett's Academic Knowledge and Skills standards. The board chairman said he would be open to including a statement preceding the AP history course that says there are elements in the course materials some may find objectionable and aren't pro-American.”

The story prompted this response from a Gwinnett student:

I am an 11th grade student now enrolled in the AP U.S. History course that was the subject of the AJC story  titled, “U.S. history battle flares in classrooms.”

The article says the course focuses on negative American history, creating students who are not “pro-American.”

As someone who is directly affected by this class every day, I must say that statement is false. Students in Gwinnett County are taught about the positive effects the United States has had on the world since we are in elementary school.

Although it is necessary to have a positive connotation of our country, not everything is black and white, so it is important to know about the mistakes we as a country have made in the past, as to not repeat them. The AP U.S. History course provides a good mix of our country’s triumphs and disappointments, drawing information from many different historians and primary sources.

In addition, you quote a former teacher, Marc Urbach, on the course and the information he says it leaves out. Due to the fact the course was changed two years after Urbach finished teaching it, I do not believe his opinion on the current course is relevant; he even says we do not cover George Washington’s farewell address from politics. This is false as we have studied that speech on multiple occasions.

I understand the issue some people may have with teaching of the wrongdoings of America, especially in this day and age.  However, the critics only see the topics we have to cover and not the detail and depth with which these ideas are studied within the classroom.

The College Board is holding firm on its AP U.S. History course, issuing a statement that said in part:

The redesigned AP U.S. History course and exam have the highest support of the history profession, with strong endorsements from the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, the National Council for Social Studies, and the National Council for History Education. As important, the redesigned AP U.S. History course has received overwhelming support from AP teachers nationwide, and is currently in use in classrooms across the country.

The College Board has the greatest confidence that AP U.S. History teachers understand how to reflect state and local requirements and the great story of America in their instruction.

In the face of these attacks on our long-standing and highly respected approach to developing college-level courses, AP teachers and students, our member institutions, and the American people can rest assured: The College Board will not compromise the integrity of the Advanced Placement Program.



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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.