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In response to critics of AP U.S. History, College Board alters course

The College Board announced changes to the framework for Advanced Placement U.S. History that allay criticisms there was too much negativity and anti-America sentiment.

As the Washington Post reported:

Conservatives, including the Republican National Committee and 2016 GOP presidential hopeful Ben Carson, slammed the 2014 Advanced Placement history course for overemphasizing negative aspects of U.S. history, portraying historical events as “identity politics” — a series of conflicts between groups of people as opposed to explaining historical events through shared ideals — and failing to fully explore the unique and positive values of the U.S. system. Carson told a gathering in September that the framework is so anti-American that “I think most people, when they finish that course, they’d be ready to sign up for ISIS.”

Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, a group of academics created to “confront the rise of campus political correctness,” commended the College Board for the 2015 revisions but said there is room for improvement.

The AJC’s Eric Stirgus reported:

College Board officials made some revisions to the course last year to give teachers more flexibility. Those changes angered conservative activists across the nation, who said the altered course had a revisionist viewpoint that diminishes U.S. history. The Republican National Committee quickly passed a resolution demanding the College Board delay implementing the changes. Many teachers and historians, though, supported the changes and disputed claims of bias.

Georgia Superintendent Richard Woods endorsed changes announced today by the College Board to its APUSH framework. (DOE Photo)

Jane Robbins, a prominent critic of last year’s revisions, said she has glanced at the changes and is still concerned. Robbins, a senior fellow at the American Principles Project, a conservative think tank, said the changes must be made to textbooks, not just the course guidelines, to be effective. “The students don’t know what’s in the framework. They know what’s in the textbooks,” said Robbins, who hopes other organizations besides the College Board will offer such courses.

Fulton County teacher Chad Hoge, who testified in support of the course at a state Legislature joint education committee meeting in February, countered that he encourages teachers to use a variety of materials to teach the class. He said the changes better explain what should be taught in a balanced way. Hoge, who teaches the course at Centennial High School, hopes the revisions will allay student concerns that the course is seriously flawed or that it may go away. “It’s really been a distraction to our students,” Hoge said.

Here is the response from Georgia Superintendent Richard Woods:

“The new Advanced Placement U.S. History frameworks that were released today are a big step in the right direction. I noted earlier this year that I had deep concerns regarding the College Board's new APUSH framework and testing because I did not believe our nation’s history was being represented with a balanced approach. I was able to meet with the College Board’s president – at his request – a few months ago and had a frank conversation about my concerns. I’m pleased to see that many of the very concerns I addressed with him are reflected in the 2015-2016 APUSH frameworks.”

The College Board closely studied Georgia's U.S. History standards and those of other states in making the revisions. They are partnering with the National Constitutional Center to ensure a greater focus on the teaching of the founding documents.

Key Changes

The revised 2015 APUSH frameworks clarify the following areas to reflect their importance in U.S. history.

  • American national identity and unity
  • American ideals of liberty, citizenship, self-governance, and how those ideals play out in U.S. history
  • American founding political leaders, including Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Hamilton, and Franklin
  • Founding Documents – including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Federalist Papers – as reflected in a new recommended focus section
  • Productive role of free enterprise, entrepreneurship, and innovation in shaping U.S. history
  • U.S. role in the victories of WWI and WWII, particularly the contributions and sacrifices of American servicemen and women in those wars
  • U.S. leadership in ending the Cold War
  • Role of religious ideas and groups in shaping American society and political life

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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.