2 Oct 2014

Do These Clowns Even Know What an AP Course Is?

Submitted by Karl Hagen
Over the last few weeks, there has been a spate of news items about various conservatives bashing the College Board's framework for the AP U.S. History test, culminating in the Colorado students who have been protesting their school board's attempts to change the AP curriculum.

In response the College Board has just released a "revised" framework, which really isn't a revision. It merely clarifies that teachers can pick the specific facts that they want to use to help their students analyze and evaluate history, and points out that just because a criticism of some aspect of America appears on the test does not imply an endorsement of that criticism's validity.

I'd be willing to bet that most of the people complaining about the framework haven't bothered to read it. That's unsurprising, since most people just echo the opinions of others they're affiliated with; many of its defenders probably haven't read the document either. I have read the whole thing, though.

If I squint really hard, I suppose I can see why some conservatives are so worked up. You have to read the document in an extremely slanted way, making a number of problematic assumptions to get there, but I can more or less follow the reasoning.

Here's my problem: even if I grant those assumptions, so what? You think a U.S. History course should be about instilling patriotism and the notion of American exceptionalism? Fine. You think that questioning the traditional historical narrative will result in students running off to join ISIS? Fine again. I think you've waded deep into hyperbolic shit, but I'll even grant you that. (BTW, lest you think I've created a straw man here...)

But this is an AP course we're talking about. That means you're getting college credit (if you score well enough on the test). It also means this course needs to reflect what real college history courses do: encourage critical thinking and analysis about historical events. What conservative school boards are saying they want a history course to be bears no relationship to what college-level history courses actually are. Don't like it? Fine. Keep your kid out of that class. But don't pretend you can make up your own idea of what a history course should be and call it an AP class. That would be like a creationist objecting to evolution appearing on the AP Bio test. You don't believe in evolution? No biologist gives a rat's ass. It's a central concept in any college biology program. Learn it or don't take the class. Just don't pretend that an evolution-free version of a biology class should get the label AP.