Thursday, September 11, 2014

Gilbreth on APHistory Standards and American Exceptionalism

Edward M Gilbreth in his pieces for the local paper generally stays out of politics. However, one recent column is an exception. He narrows his concerns to some responses to Sherry Few's (and others) objections to AP History guidelines published by the College Board.
According to a recent Newsweek article, a former New Jersey history teacher, Larry S. Krieger, with 40-year classroom experience, sounded the loudest alarm of revisionist history. He has since joined forces with opponents of the Common Core curriculum. Critics claim it's no coincidence that College Board President David Coleman previously had a hand in writing Common Core's math and English benchmarks and that they have similarities.
It hasn't taken long for this furor to get red-hot with politicians, including the National Republican Committee (RNC), taking the lead. Private or not, the College Board takes public dollars and there's a move in Congress to halt federal funds until the curriculum is revised. 
College Board officials, who also run the SAT exam, say it's all a big misunderstanding.
Its website contends the number of historical references actually has increased and that thousands of teachers motivated the changes by expressing "strong concerns that the course required a breathless race through American history" that sacrificed opportunities "for students to engage in writing and research." 
Conversely, the Newsweek article says Krieger is convinced that the failure to mention most of America's greatest historical figures by name means that they won't be on the test and therefore won't be taught. He also contends the new curriculum has "a consistently negative view of American history that highlights oppressors and exploiters." 
Krieger told Newsweek he is particularly upset by the absence of discussion of the valor or heroism of American soldiers in World War II. Instead, he cited this from the framework: "Wartime experiences such as the internment of Japanese Americans, challenges to civil liberties, debates over race and segregation, and the decision to drop the atomic bomb raised questions about American values."
Critics have targeted New York University Professor Thomas Bender as influential in the changes. A National Review article by Stanley Kurtz claims that the redesign process actually took root in 2006 at a conference attended by Bender. He describes Bender as "the leading spokesman for the movement to internationalize the U.S. History curriculum at every educational level" and as a "thoroughgoing critic of American exceptionalism." 
There's that term "American exceptionalism" again. Some love it; some hate it. Some believe America is truly exceptional in overall exceptionally good ways - far better than any other country in history. Others see just the opposite - that we're an exceptionally bad country and have achieved our status through exceptionally bad means - and that we now need to hang our heads in shame, retreat from the world stage and apologize in unison. Accordingly, our rise to exceptional status must somehow be morally invalid, and that our good works mean nothing because they originated from bad. Make sense?
Well, not to this daughter of a marine veteran of Iwo Jima. "Questions about American values" will always occur in a society with free speech; however, free speech in the AP History classroom is generally controlled by the teacher. How about some research on the hardships faced by ordinary citizens in a war agains pure evil?

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