APUSH: Are Politicians Usually Silencing History?

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Advanced Placement tests were introduced in 1955 with the idea that students who show exceptional knowledge in a subject should be given the opportunity to earn college credit for some of the work they put in during their high school careers. The program has grown a great deal and in 2014 there were 4,135,962 tests administered over 34 different subject areas.[1] On a personal note, I took six different AP tests over my high school career and it allowed me to start college with a full semester’s worth of gen ed requirements already taken care of. With that in mind:

1. Who is trying to prevent students in Oklahoma from being able to take the AP US History test?

A) Oklahoma Rep. Dan Fisher – R

B) Oklahoma Rep. Sally Kern – R

C) The Black Robe Regiment

D) The Republican National Committee

E) All of the above.

If you guessed E, you are correct. The Black Robe Regiment was originally how the British referred to Protestant clergy who encouraged colonialists to take arms against the crown during the American Revolution. It is currently a phrase used by some evangelical Christian leaders to self identify and argue, “The church and God himself has been under assault, marginalized, and diminished by the progressives and secularists.” They go on to claim that a, “Growing tide of special interest groups indoctrinating our youth at the exclusion of the Christian perspective.”

Rep. Dan Fisher is a member of the BRR and introduced emergency legislation prohibiting the expenditure of any state funding on the Advanced Placement US History course. It passed with a vote of 11-4.[2]

2. What do Rep. Fisher and the BRR claim is so offensive about the APUSH curriculum?

A) It only teaches students, “What is bad about America.”

B) It fails to teach American Exceptionalism.

C) It, “Deliberately distorts and/or edits out important historical events,”

D) It, “Reflects a radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects.”

E) All of the above.

If you guessed E, you are correct. Although in fairness, quotes C and D both came from and RNC statement last August.[3] Rep Sally Kern takes this whole story to another level by asking the Oklahoma Attorney General to make a ruling on whether any AP tests are legal in the state of Oklahoma. Last year Oklahoma passed a law which gave sole control of curriculum and assessment to the state, effectively banning Common Core standards from applying there. Rep. Kern argues that, “AP courses are similar to Common Core, in that they could be construed as an attempt to impose a national curriculum on American schools.”[4]

3. What question is appropriate to ask certain members of the Oklahoma legislature?

A) What qualifies Christian clergy to override the history standards recommended by teachers?

B) Do you recommend science classes also stop teaching any failures various inventors have experienced alongside their successes?

C) Do you realize that AP tests aren’t actually government regulations but tests administered by a private company?

D) Given that any national curriculum is now banned in Oklahoma, does that mean SAT and ACT tests and prep courses are also outlawed?

E) All of the above.

If you guessed E, you are correct. I’d like to address B and D a little more specifically. When we teach science we talk extensively about failures being overcome and leading to greater success. Everyone knows the Thomas Edison quote about finding 10,000 ways not to make a lightbulb. Does that take away from what Edison did accomplish? America is often touted as this great experiment in Democracy, we have to teach the failures alongside the successes in history just like we do in science or else we’re missing major elements of our own story.

As far as D goes, if we’re considering national tests from private companies as infringing states’ rights then I don’t see how students in Oklahoma can take SAT or ACT tests. That idea really highlights the way that students are hurt here too. If their curriculum is different and they intend on going to college or working in another state then they are at a disadvantage.

4. In what other states are similar measures being proposed?

A) Colorado

B) Georgia

C) North Carolina

D) South Carolina

E) All of the above

I’m guessing at this point you guessed E out of habit more than reading the other answers, but you’re still right. In Colorado a school board member named Julie Williams proposed a review of the APUSH curriculum and wanted it to include the line, “Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife, or disregard of the law.” I don’t know how you could teach the founding of America without teaching the benefits of civil disorder, social strife, and disregard of law, but I’m happy to say teachers in Colorado haven’t had to figure out how yet.

College Board, the company that runs the AP testing system, warned that if such changes were made that the class could no longer bear the AP label. The students sensed all of their hard work could be for naught and staged several walk outs. College Board has made a statement supporting the students saying, “These students recognize that the social order can—and sometimes must—be disrupted in the pursuit of liberty and justice.”[5] So far none of Julie Williams’s changes have been implemented.

Meanwhile South Carolina is petitioning College Board to remove any material with an, “ideological bias,” which sounds like a good idea until it’s revealed that their definition of ideological bias includes the entire theory of evolution. Sadly in all cases we’ve talked about today, ideological bias seems to be defined as anything that doesn’t perfectly fit an extremely narrow conservative Christian worldview which includes the strange insistence that the United States has always been a Christian nation and furthermore that this Christian nation has never made any mistakes.

We live in a connected country and an increasingly connected world. You can’t close yourself off to progress in history, science, or education. That isn’t quite true, you can close yourself off, but if you do you can’t expect your children to venture out into the larger world and succeed with ease, but then again I don’t think these regulations are being put in place by people who want their children going out into the world and finding success. They want their children just as closed off from the world as they themselves are.

As always, questions, comments, and concerns are welcome. Answers are guaranteed.

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2 thoughts on “APUSH: Are Politicians Usually Silencing History?

    Natalie said:
    February 18, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    I can’t believe they thought that calling themselves the Black Robe Regiment would call to mind anything besides nefarious secret cabals a la the Illuminati. Then again maybe that’s exactly what they were going for.

      Reed Perkins responded:
      February 18, 2015 at 4:27 pm

      It does seem like an obscure reference to make even for people who know the revolutionary war. I admit I’m not a big history guy, but i had to look it up. It makes me think of a poorly written DND organization more than anything else.

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