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Oh, here we go again. Somebody is always banning something, and now it is the AP U.S. history course, on the grounds that it has an anti-American, unpatriotic slant. I haven’t seen the course and can’t weigh in on the facts, but it is troubling to see state legislatures deciding questions of history. That is not the right forum. Controversial issues should be resolved by competent scholars. of whom there are many. Typically, in history, there is not a right answer (even if the multiple-choice test-makers think so); in history, there are interpretations and debates. Students should be aware of those debates, not given pre-fab right answers.
An Oklahoma legislative committee overwhelmingly voted to ban Advanced Placement U.S. History class, persuaded by the argument that it only teaches students “what is bad about America.” Other lawmakers are seeking a court ruling that would effectively prohibit the teaching of all AP courses in public schools.
Oklahoma Rep. Dan Fisher (R) has introduced “emergency” legislation “prohibiting the expenditure of funds on the Advanced Placement United States History course.” Fisher is part of a group called the “Black Robe Regiment” which argues “the church and God himself has been under assault, marginalized, and diminished by the progressives and secularists.” The group attacks the “false wall of separation of church and state.” The Black Robe Regiment claims that a “growing tide of special interest groups indoctrinating our youth at the exclusion of the Christian perspective.”
Fisher said the Advanced Placement history class fails to teach “American exceptionalism.” The bill passed the Oklahoma House Education committee on Monday on a vote of 11-4. You can read the actual course description for the course here.
For other lawmakers, however, Fisher is thinking too small. Oklahoma Rep. Sally Kern (R) claims that all “AP courses violate the legislation approved last year that repealed Common Core.” She has asked the Oklahoma Attorney General to issue a ruling. Kern argues that “AP courses are similar to Common Core, in that they could be construed as an attempt to impose a national curriculum on American schools.”
Advanced Placement courses are actually developed by a private group, the College Board, and are not required of any student or high school. They are the primary way that student can earn college credit in high school. Taking advanced placement course can save students money and are generally seen as a prerequisite to admission to elite colleges. A representative from the College Board called the claims by Fisher and others “mythology and not true.”
Other states are engaged in the same battles. Colorado jumped into this one, and high school students walked out to protest political interference in their studies.
Common Core and AP courses tend to get mixed into the same controversies, because the lead architect of the Common Core happens to be the CEO of the College Board. There is a lesson here about the need to keep politics out of curriculum-making. On both sides of the issue. To the extent that the curriculum is determined by politics, not by scholarship, our nation’s children are dumbed down and deprived of their right to learn.