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AP History Changes Create 'Negative' and 'Biased' View of U.S., Alleges RNC

Cross-posted from the Curriculum Matters blog

by Catherine Gewertz

The Republican National Commitee is calling for a fight against the College Board's new framework for Advanced Placement U.S. History, claiming that it  "deliberately distorts and/or edits out important historical events."

The new framework "reflects a radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation's history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects," said a resolution adopted by the RNC on Friday at its summer meeting in Chicago.

The resolution demands that the College Board delay for at least one year its plan to debut the framework in high schools this fall. It urges that a committee be convened to draft a new AP U.S. history framework that is "consistent both with the APUSH course's traditional mission, with state history standards, and with the desires of U.S. parents and other citizens for their students to learn the true history of their country." And it calls on Congress to "investigate this matter" and withhold any funding to the College Board until a suitable framework is produced.

Asked for a response to the RNC resolution, College Board spokeswoman Carly Lindauer said in an email that the new AP U.S. history framework, developed and "overwhelmingly supported by" college faculty and expert AP teachers, is "built to be flexible."

"It allows for a focus on state priorities, as well as teacher and parent choices that best fit the needs of their individual students," she wrote. "The new course emphasizes the American founding documents and their essential role in our nation's history, and recognizes American heroism, courage, and innovation. College Board leaders continue to meet with individuals who have concerns about the redesign to listen and receive feedback."

More information about the redesign of the framework can be found on a special page on the College Board's website.

Conservative opposition to the new APUSH framework has been circulating with increasing intensity in recent weeks, culminating in an "open letter" to College Board President David Coleman on Aug. 4. The letter, posted by the conservative groups American Principles in Action and Concerned Women for America, demands a one-year delay in use of the framework, and a return to the brief "topic outline" that was previously used to guide AP U.S. history instruction. As of this afternoon, that letter had garnered more than 1,000 signatures.

The letter takes the framework to task for its "negative" approach to U.S. history. As an example, it attacks the framework for portraying U.S. colonists as "oppressors and exploiters while ignoring the dreamers and innovators who built our country." The signatories also say that at 98 pages, the framework essentially replaces the five-page topic outline with a full-blown curriculum, and one that conflicts with many states' social studies standards. 

As conservatives have circulated the letter, they've also been writing and circulating strategies for opposition to the new framework. Concerned Women For America, for instance, has an action plan posted on its website.  

Opponents to the framework are giving a particularly high profile to support they've gleaned from scholars. A highly critical analysis by Peter Wood, the president of the National Association of Scholars, who calls the framework "radical" and "a complete overhaul of the Advanced Placement course in U.S. History," has also been widely circulated.

When my colleague Liana Heitin reported in May on the changes planned for the APUSH course and exam, she noted that the revamped course would be more specific about which historical details should be covered, and would emphasize  "historical thinking skills." The College Board is also reworking its courses in European history and art history for use in the fall of 2015.

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