Battle Rages Over American History Course

The College Board’s revised Advanced Placement American history course has become the new focus of a bitter liberal-conservative debate that has boiled for american photo - Copy

The controversy in Oklahoma began after conservative critics of the course claimed it creates terrible impression of America as an oppressive nation. The course is taken electively in high schools for college credit.

When conservative State Representative Dan Fisher (97 percent Conservative Index score on the Oklahoma Constitution newspaper’s ratings of the state legislature) introduced a bill to force changes in the AP history class standards as they are currently taught in Oklahoma’s public schools, he provoked a firestorm of opposition, The New American reported.

The NA quoted Peter Wood of the National Association of Scholars as saying in his description of the new course:

“One group oppressing another is the dominant motif of AP U.S. history, a history of the oppressors always finding new ways to impose their desire for wealth and gain and the people being repressed always resisting.”

National Public Radio reported that concerns about the alleged liberal slant of the standards have been expressed in other states as well, including Texas, Georgia, Nebraska, North Carolina and Tennessee.

NPR said that not only are America’s Founders “hardly even mentioned,” but neither are civil rights leaders Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. The College Board responded that the guidelines are not intended as a “comprehensive curriculum,” NA stated.

Not surprisingly, Oklahoma Representative Fisher’s effort to thwart what claims is the one-sided presentation of American history led to predictable news reports, such as the Tulsa World story claiming that he wanted to “do away” with AP history. Fisher told the NA that he “never called for the abolition of AP history classes.”

Fisher said the content of the College Board’s revised course is “very skewed overall,” with “an agenda to emphasize all things wrong with America.” Certain events and individuals, he said, are emphasized to the “omission of other events—designed to give a negative view” of the country.

“We do not object” to bad things in American history being taught, such as slavery and the Indian removals, Fisher asserted, explaining that he just wants a balanced presentation of the nation’s history, to include a study of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and America’s War for Independence.

The Oklahoma State House of Representatives’ Education Committee passed Fisher’s bill that would defund the current AP U.S. History course framework and replace it with a curriculum deemed more pro-American. The bill requires the replacement class to cover a number of “founding documents of the United States that contributed to the foundation or maintenance of the representative form of limited government, the free-market economic system and American exceptionalism.”

“Most people when they finish that course, they’d be ready to go sign up for ISIS.”

—Dr. Ben Carson, GOP presidential contender

Liberal critics of the bill harped on the bill’s inclusion of speeches by Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush and omission of any documents from their Democratic contemporaries (though it did include Malcolm X’s “Ballot or the Bullet” speech and Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” speech), Politico reported.

Amid the controversy, Fisher withdrew the bill for revision, telling a local newspaper that it was “poorly worded.”

Ted Dickson, a high school teacher who helped write the framework as co-chair of the College Board’s AP U.S. History Curriculum Development and Assessment Committee, defended that approach as crucial to developing students’ critical thinking skills and a balanced view of American history, in an interview with Politico.

“Do you encourage citizenship and patriotism by only talking about what’s great about the U.S.?” he said. “Or do you encourage citizenship and patriotism by talking about not just the positives aspects of our history but also the parts that are negative and how we as a country strive to overcome those?”

Steve Byas, author of the NA story, claims the history course revises history to suit the Progressive movement. “The progressives largely rejected the concept of limited government, as it was structured by the Founders in the U.S. Constitution, insisting that government should be freed from the shackles of the Constitution and allowed increased power so as to correct real or alleged ‘evils’ of society,” he said.

“This was not the conservative view of the proper role of government, and 1920 Republican presidential candidate, Senator Warren Harding of Ohio, summed up the conservative opposition to the progressive philosophy: ‘All human ills are not curable by legislation.’”

GOP president contender Dr. Ben Carson went even further in a speech last fall when he contended that “most people when they finish that course, they’d be ready to go sign up for ISIS,” the Iraq and Syria-based terrorist group.