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Opinion: Leftist slant to AP U.S. History turns America's melting pot into boiling pot

Georgia state Sen. William Ligon, Majority Caucus Chairman, explains why he wants the College Board to revise its AP U.S. History Course and why he is sponsoring a resolution to that effect.


Leftist slant to AP U.S. History turns America's melting pot into boiling pot

By SEN. WILLIAM LIGON, R-Brunswick, Majority Caucus Chairman

The progressive establishment is circling the wagons to protect the College Board from criticism.

That criticism comes in the form of SR 80, a Senate resolution that asks the College Board to de-politicize its new Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) course and urges competition to the College Board's monopoly. Despite headlines that the "sky is falling," SR 80 does not ban AP courses or testing.

I offered the resolution as a response to the new APUSH Framework, which radically transforms the traditional APUSH course. The College Board requires educators to teach history through “themes” and “key concepts” that create a distorted and incomplete understanding of our American story.

Although the College Board advocates that the new Framework will help develop students’ “historical thinking skills,” what kind of conclusions will students draw from this Framework that minimizes America's attributes yet maximizes her flaws? Understanding history has always required "thinking skills." How could our country have endured if our students had not learned these “skills?”

In any event, let’s see what “thinking skills” come with the new APUSH Framework.

A review of the Framework (available online - I recommend that all Georgians read it) reveals a leftist slant which sets the tone for much of the document.

While the previous APUSH course defined the theme of Identity as “[v]iews of the American national character and ideas about American exceptionalism,” the new Framework omits American exceptionalism and instructs teachers to pay “special attention . . . to the formation of gender, class, racial, and ethnic identities.” (p. 21). This theme – oppression of and conflict among identity groups -- is the lens through which much of American history is taught. Gone is America as the great melting pot; it is the boiling pot.

The concept of Manifest Destiny, we now learn, was “built on a belief in white racial superiority and a sense of American cultural superiority . . . .” (p. 55), rather than America's commitment to expand democratic ideals. Even a College Board representative, testifying in Georgia, admitted that this statement is “the low point” of the Framework.

The free enterprise system -- never referred to as “free enterprise” but rather as “big business,” “corporate interests," and "monopolies" -- had little positive effect on the country’s development; rather, rapacious business interests despoiled the environment and oppressed workers, especially immigrants (pp. 61-66).

Ronald Reagan, portrayed as “bellicose” and double-minded in his Cold War strategy, only achieves success by becoming friendly with Mikhail Gorbachev (p. 79).

The selection of examples for teachers to use in the classroom signals another leftward tilt. In the first version of the Framework, we protested the fact that Dr. Martin Luther King was excluded from the section on Civil Rights while the Black Panthers were included. Similar examples still abound.

An incomplete and unbalanced presentation of American history cheats our students of their true heritage. It ensures that they will make future decisions with a base of knowledge that is defective. Future leaders must know our history in order to nurture liberty, protect free enterprise, avoid the mistakes of the past, and build upon the founding principles that have made this nation a beacon of hope around the world.

There is nothing sacrosanct about the unaccountable College Board. As with all vendors, a little competition could go a long way toward keeping this soon-to-be billion-dollar corporation accountable. Its coursework and testing for our college-bound students, paid for in part by taxpayer funding, has no free pass to avoid inspection or competition.

This is what SR 80 is about, and this is why it just passed the Senate, 38-17.



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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.