Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Grooms Gets an A for AP History Analysis

When the College Board first instituted the Advanced Placement American History curriculum, a five-page guide was enough direction for its small cadre of teachers.

Flash forward thirty years or so to the spread of AP classes to the masses and the problems the CB faces with teachers not fully prepared to teach them, perhaps not even capable of making a "3" on the test itself. Of course, through AP conferences and training many not-so-well educated teachers have become adept at challenging their students. However, recently the College Board decided that the younger teachers now taking over needed more guidance.

Hence, the genesis of the 142-page guide ,or "framework," provided to today's history teachers. The necessity for such a guide reflects the dumbing down of American high schools over the last thirty years. The America-bashing of the guide merely reflects the liberalism of today's educational establishment. The furor has occurred because they put it in writing. The College Board is surprised at the controversy because it doesn't know anyone who doesn't think the way it does.

Larry Grooms's op-ed in Tuesday's paper, a reasoned analysis of the fuss over the framework, bears reprinting:
There was a time when American exceptionalism was as much a part of a student's education as Jamestown, Manifest Destiny, and the Wright brothers. In his 1989 farewell speech, Ronald Reagan described America as a "shining city upon a hill... a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds ... a city that hummed with commerce and creativity."
The American experience is not this tidy. Our history includes plenty of mistakes, but we've overcome plenty, too. As Bill Clinton observed, there is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.
This highly American ideology - the can-do spirit, the casting aside of differences when history demands - does not resonate with the historians who recently rewrote the College Board's Advanced Placement U.S. History curriculum. The College Board is a nonprofit that helps students prepare for college through programs such as the SAT and the Advanced Placement Program.
Claiming that the existing five-page guide prevents students from studying "the main events of U.S. history," the board's scholars poured out their collective genius, releasing a new 142-page curriculum they call a "framework." Their self-proclaimed landmark project presents a consistently negative view of America. It also reveals a left-wing, radically flawed reinterpretation of history.
The framework does not include questions about the Mayflower Compact, Thomas Jefferson, the Gettysburg Address or the Truman Doctrine. Neither are students asked about Dwight Eisenhower, Jonas Salk or Martin Luther King, Jr. The valor of our soldiers who ended Nazi oppression in World War II and the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust are omitted. Instead of focusing on resilient personalities and extraordinary achievements - the history most of us learned - the framework centers on controversy. Identity group grievances, conflict, exploitation, oppression, unresolved social movements - these are presented as our nation's foundation.
We do a great disservice when we gloss over these injustices. But while America's means haven't always been laudable, our ends most often are. As Churchill observed: "The United States invariably does the right thing - after exhausting every other alternative."
It is this uniquely American approach that the framework ignores. Students should be taught facts - triumphs and tragedies. Instead, the framework consistently focuses on all that was ever wrong with this, the most generous and progressive people in the history of mankind.
Now that commonsense folks are calling them out, the test's writers are falling all over themselves to defend their work. They say that teachers are free to discuss George Washington, the role of capitalism, the Holocaust and other topics that may be required by a particular state's standards. South Carolina's education officials also assure us that our state's standards will safeguard students from negative biases.
Both assurances ignore page 2 of the framework: "Beginning with the May 2015 AP U.S. History Exam, no AP U.S. History Exam questions will require students to know historical content that falls outside this concept outline." Teachers face the difficult, if not impossible, task of finding time to teach both the state standards and the framework. Why teach topics that are not on the test?
The College Board knows this. Its stated goal is to "train a generation of students" to become "apprentice historians." The hope is that these apprentices in turn inculcate another generation. This is the same strategy used to promote controversial Common Core state standards. It is no coincidence that David Coleman, chief architect of Common Core, is also president of the College Board.
In the same remarkably prescient speech, Reagan warned of such schemes, cautioning that "we've got to teach history based not on what's in fashion but what's important. ... If we forget what we did, we won't know who we are. I'm warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit."
Reagan concluded with a challenge to students: "... if your parents haven't been teaching you what it means to be an American, let 'em know and nail 'em on it. That would be a very American thing to do."
These historians are not teaching what it means to be an American. They are teaching victimization and social politics.
It is time we call them out on it. That would be a very American thing to do.
Larry Grooms, a Republican, represents Berkeley and Charleston counties in the S.C. Senate.

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