Today's Politicos vs The Words and Deeds of The Founders
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A PUSH In the Wrong Direction

Some months ago, under the title More on Common Core, WWTFT apprised readers of the Advanced Placement U.S. History exam (APUSH) issued by the College Board in 2014. Since then more details have become available. Lynne Cheney brought the exam to national attention in a WSJ article last month.

Cheney writes that on the APUSH sample exam a passage from President Reagan’s famous June 12, 1987 “take down this wall” speech is “held up as an example of increased assertiveness and bellicosity” on the part of the U.S. in the 1980s. “That’s the answer to a multiple-choice question about what Reagan’s speech reflects.”

No notice is taken of the connection the president made between freedom and human flourishing, no attention to the fact that within 2½ years of the speech, people were chipping off pieces of the Berlin Wall as souvenirs. Instead of acknowledging important ideas and historical context, test makers have reduced President Reagan’s most eloquent moment to warmongering.

Almost half of the multiple-choice section of the sample exam “takes up the oppression of women, blacks and immigrants…”

The immigrant story that the exam tells is of oppressed people escaping to America only to find more oppression. That many came seeking the Promised Land—and found it here—is no longer part of the narrative…

Aside from a section about mobilizing women to serve in the workforce, the sample exam has nothing to say about World War II, the conflict in which the U.S. liberated millions of people and ended one of the most evil regimes in the history of the world…

The wartime experiences that the new framework prefers are those raising “questions about American values,” such as “the internment of Japanese Americans, challenges to civil liberties, debates over race and segregation, and the decision to drop the atomic bomb…

Don’t look for James Madison or Benjamin Franklin because they don’t get even the bare mention afforded to George Washington.

As Paul Mirengoff writes on Power Line:

The Declaration of Independence is presented chiefly as an illustration of the colonists’ belief in their own superiority. Slavery and the treatment of Native Americans are at center stage. At times, the presentation of the New Deal and the Reagan era seems to come straight out of a Democratic Party press office.”

The insidious, nefarious is a better word, aspect of the new framework is that it is the culminating step in the effort by the architects of Common Core to foist an ideologically biased curriculum on American students. The College Board’s new APUSH framework was launched soon after David Coleman was selected as its new president. Coleman, as WWTFT points out in another post, is the architect of Common Core.

Mirengoff explains:

States can reject the common core. But if high schools want to offer AP U.S. History (and it is to their advantage and the advantage of students that they do so), they must teach it as the College Board prescribes. Otherwise, students will be at a severe disadvantage when they take the end-of-the-year exam upon which college credit may depend.

The pretense of choice, of citizen input, so carefully fabricated by the crafters of Common Core loses all credibility with the blatancy of the anti-American history framework written by leftist academics and imposed by the College Board.

It seems odd that the board would have chosen these items to put on the sample. Members had to know of the criticism that would result, not only from conservatives, but also from scholars. Readers can decide whether doing so indicates their belief in having already taken the field and having nothing to lose, or whether it is hubris.

In any case, with enough adverse publicity, the public could mutiny, forcing governors and state legislatures to petition the College Board for a rewrite or, if unsuccessful, seek alternatives exams.

On June 2 fifty-five distinguished scholars published an open letter protesting the one-sided and politicized curriculum framework. The scholars wrote that the lengthy 134-page APUSH document “centralizes control, deemphasizes content and promotes a particular interpretation of American history:”

This interpretation downplays American citizenship and American world leadership in favor of a more global and transnational perspective. The College Board has long enjoyed an effective monopoly on advanced placement testing. The changes made in the new framework expose the danger in such a monopoly. The result smacks of an “official” account of the American past…

The new framework is organized around abstractions such as “identity,” “peopling,” work exchange and technology” and human geography” while essential subjects are downplayed. These include

“the sources, meaning, and development of America’s ideals and political institutions, notably the Constitution.”

Elections, wars, diplomacy, inventions, discoveries––all these formerly central subjects tend to dissolve into the vagaries of identity-group conflict…

The new version of the test will effectively marginalize important ways of teaching about the American past, and force American high schools to teach U.S. history from a perspective that self-consciously seeks to de-center American history and subordinate it to a global and heavily social-scientific perspective.

Special attention is given to “the formation of class, racial and ethnic identities.”

The new framework makes a shift from “identity” to “identities.” Indeed the new framework is so populated with examples of American history as the conflict between social groups, and so inattentive to the sources of national unity and cohesion, that it is hard to se how students will gain any coherent idea of what those sources might be…

As George Orwell famously wrote, “we have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.” Such is the situation that prevails in American education. It is obvious that if American students do not understand their nation’s merits, along with its errors, they will not know what makes it worth preserving.

CS Lewis said it this way:

We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.

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