College Board changes AP US History curriculum again

Aug 8, 2015 by

By Ethan Stoetzer –

The College Board released a new curriculum framework for the 2015 AP US History course this past July, causing uproar amongst left and right-wing political groups and governments — and drawing media scrutiny.

The previous curriculum was derided as being void of “one” American national identity —  according to a petition by a group known as Scholars Concerned About Advanced Placement History — as well as leaning too left ideologically.

The latest curriculum has been criticized as being whitewashed, downplaying some darker points in American history.

Jeremy Stern, an independent historian history education consultant, was selected by the College Board to assist in the development of the new curriculum. He had called the previous version “significantly flawed.”

Stern’s critique of the curriculum was that it leaned too far left, politically and was not presented in an unbiased way.

“This revised framework treats westward expansion with greater neutrality.” Stern says by way of example. “It discusses why settlers chose to go west, and what they hoped to achieve — without in any way downplaying the dire consequences for Native Americans.

Stern adds that the approach was to try to look at events “based on culture and ideas of the time.”

The previous curriculum has been criticized by groups like the Republican National Committee and conservative state legislatures such as Texas, Oklahoma and Georgia, though Stern characterizes their concerns as “vitriol” and “over-the-top.”

Stern says that he is just as critical of conservative bias as he is of liberal bias.

He reasons that the curriculum is “merely a guide for what will be on the AP test, and suggests methods and concepts to teach to students.”

Thomas Rosenberg, an AP US history II teacher at Cherry Hill High School East (NJ), has been teaching AP US history for several years, and believes that the course in 2014 didn’t lean in any direction.

“I did not feel, nor did I teach the content, as though it favored conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat,” Rosenberg says. “For me, I saw the changes as more thematic; that is, being able to fit American history and its role in the world into a new, more broad context.

Rosenberg said the course was well intentioned, but felt the CollegeBoard was “completely unprepared for this new format.”

In terms of the highly talked about section on American Exceptionalism, Stern says that the concept was misunderstood.

“There’s only one mention of the term in the 2015 document, and it’s in the concept of National Identity,” Stern says. “The idea of American Exceptionalism as an organizing theme is incorrect.”

He says that right-wing critics will likely still think it leans too left and that left-wing critics will say it’s still to “whitewashed.”

“I don’t not believe in ‘American Exceptionalism,’” Rosenberg says. “I believe in American History and I think it’s essential that every American student learn about it, but our way is not 100% correct. It never has been.”

Stern brings up the point that in deciding what goes into the teaching of history, it’s hard to decide what’s actually “good.” How does one label who is good in history?

“The Plain Indians were constantly at war with each other over land, resources, and historic rivalries. General Custer had Native American allies in the Battle of Little Bighorn, traditional enemies of Custer’s own Indian enemies. Do they qualify as ‘good’ or as ‘bad,’” he asks.

“The purpose of the course is to teach students what happened and why, and to help them evaluate it in a historical context. It is an AP course and that’s what advanced students are encouraged to do.”

 

Source: College Board changes AP US History curriculum again | USA TODAY College

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