Advanced Placement US history curriculum raises questions

ap263359470828_4In late September, hundreds of high school students in Denver walked out of their Advanced Placement US History class in protest over what is being called “conservative censorship” of the curriculum. The student walk-out followed a teacher sick-out the previous week. On September 22, some of the protesting students drove to the Jefferson County School Administration Building to deliver a letter to Superintendent Dan McMinimee stating, “I want honesty in my classroom. Teachers want honesty in the classroom.”

However, not everyone wants honesty in the classroom. The Raw Story reports, “Tensions have run high in Jefferson County schools since three conservative candidates were elected to the school board.” The conservative board members suggested a rewrite of the way history is taught to students, wanting students to learn nationalism, respect for authority and reverence for free markets. They also want teachers to avoid teaching any historical events or acts that promote “civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.”

Retired teacher Larry Kreiger told Newsweek, in August, that he felt it was his duty, as a high school history teacher for more than 40 years, to teach his students what made America great. Kreiger says that he got upset after reading the framework for the AP curriculum, saying, “As I read through the document, I saw a consistently negative view of American history that highlights oppressors and exploiters.”

The curriculum which aims to promote “critical thinking skills for the study of history” doesn’t please Krieger when it comes to teaching students about World War II. Kreiger, and other conservatives, want students to be told about the “heroism of American soldiers” Instead, the curriculum teaches students about “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 [which] raised questions about American values.”

After a cursory glance of the framework, what I find most disturbing is the claim that nullification was used to defend slavery. The fact is that before the passage of the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, slavery was legal in the United States of America. Nullification is not the defense of something that is statutorily legal, rather nullification is the action of a state attempting to prevent the enforcement of an unconstitutional federal law. One such example of nullification would be the nullification, in Wisconsin, of the Fugitive Slave Act. The AP framework mentions, “Northern resistance to the Fugitive Slave Law in the Compromise of 1850” yet does not mention the nullification of the law.

At the end of the day, there is on major question in this debate over the AP curriculum that isn’t being asked: Who should be responsible for what your children learn? If you believe that education decisions should made by bureaucrats, whether elected or not, don’t be surprised when decisions are made that you don’t like!

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