Could the new AP United States History curriculum destroy American values?

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SAN JOSE, October 8, 2014 –   The new Advanced Placement United States History (APUSH) curriculum has created quite a rousing sensation since it was introdced this past summer by the College Board, the same organization that assembles the SAT exams for high school students that are hoping to pursue a higher education in the United States.

The sensation was not all positive, and some highly intelligent scholars have taken issue with the revised content. As early as July 2nd of this year, Dr. Peter Wood of The National Association of Scholars, offered serious criticism of the new version the College Board has generated as a revised standard for teaching U.S. History to young Americans throughout the nation.

Dr. Wood explained that in light of the many faults in the American public education system in grades K through 12, the College Board’s revision of the APUSH framework with “a great deal of important U.S. history given cursory treatment and some ideological themes… sounded rather loudly…” Wood and his colleagues at NAS are “concerned about the quality of preparation for college that American high school students receive… and ; and… have a particular interest in the standards set in the study of U.S. History, which is one of the foundations for American citizenship.

According to Wood, students studying the new curriculum “would indeed learn quite a bit about broad-stroke economic developments, class envy, racial struggle, women’s rights, and the rise of the Progressive movement. These are all worth knowing about.  But an AP history course that is routed towards these destinations and that passes by nearly everything else with a glance out of the side window does a serious disservice to the subject.” He explained that the College Board states that the course is “modeled on a comparable college course.”  However, Wood views that as not very reassuring.


To put it into a relevant perspective, Dr. Wood “systematically examined 85 entry-level U.S. history courses at two major public universities as part of the National Association of Scholars’ 2013 study, Recasting History…” and his conclusion was that “American history as it is currently taught in many colleges and universities has been twisted perhaps more than other parts of the college curriculum into a platform for political advocacy and for animus against traditional American values.” Some observers prefer to believe that “the truth lies somewhere in between” because it is quite difficult to conceive that the College Board’s intent is Leftist indoctrination.

Despite the way it is being portrayed by the College Board or their apologists, it has stirred up a hornet’s nest of controversy from Conservative groups around the nation. Recently, Dr. Benjamin Carson, the renowned neurosurgeon, and Conservative best-selling author, a highly intelligent black professional and scholar whom Leftists and the  “Progressives” hate, recently quipped in an interview that after studying the new APUSH material, it would make American students want to go and join ISIS. It is a bold, but very insightful statement. Carson and others who agree with him are seriously attempting to expose a daring agenda to rewrite U.S. history.

Dr. Carson, who has recently published two hardcover books touching on a number of topics has emerged as one of the leading spokesmen for the preservation of traditional American values and a return to the fundamental founding principles that the Founding Father sought to imbed into the fabric of the U.S. culture. In his more recent book, One Nation, Carson expresses the importance of an accurate understanding of history:

Our nation’s founders felt very strongly that our system of government could    only survive with a well-informed and educated populace. They understood     that if the populace reached the point of not being able to critically analyze information. It would easily fall prey to slick politicians and unethical news   media. All citizens need to arm themselves with a basic knowledge of     American history and stay abreast of current events, analyzing them with  respect to history. Knowledge is power and at a time when the people are becoming increasingly impotent while government grows larger and larger       and more powerful, it is vital that we arm ourselves with knowledge.

Unfortunately, beyond the reach of the average individual is the capability to discern fact from fiction or myth from truth. People tend to accept the essential “truth” regarding a particular period of history when a designated expert imparts such knowledge to one’s students. However, when a trusted source of knowledge only imparts the portions of history that are personally preferable, or those aspects of historical events that are perceived as important, then some part of history is lost to the student. It is hard enough to keep students interested in the study of history because there is so much recorded history, but to eliminate important aspects or events based upon bias or preference is not only unprofessional, it is also deceptive and deceitful.

Another two major critics of the new APUSH material originated much earlier this year from Jane Robbins, a senior fellow at the American Principles Project, and Larry Krieger, a retired APUSH teacher. As early as March of this year these two posted an article “New Advanced Placement Framework Distorts America’s History.” They have analyzed the new content and come to the conclusion that the curriculum does a serious injustice to a balanced view of American history. Krieger published a reply to the College Board defenders, in an article in April entitled, “Yes, the New AP Framework Does Distort U.S. history.”

While it is important to be able to perpetually revise history as a necessary function of accurately recording or reporting history, such revision should not intentionally distort history. Academics tend to dig deeper into the past and discover information previously unknown about a nation’s ancestors. Progressive-revisionists would contend that the original versions of U.S. history tended to camouflage atrocities that one group of people perpetrated upon another, or tended to glorify certain central figures in history who committed the atrocities. They would also contend, rightfully so, that the effort to provide an intellectual whitewash of specific historical events is academic dishonesty.

Another premise that is often propagated by the Left regarding their attempts to get away with teaching history via their perception of reality is that Americans should not be afraid of viewing or discovering the truth of history. That is certainly an acceptable and commendable point. However, with an effort to focus only upon all the mistakes or to scrutinize only the dirty laundry of U.S. history is to present an imbalanced perception of historical events. It is comparable to listening to a friend or an acquaintance describe a person with no redeemable qualities. In the public arena this is known as “demonizing” an individual. When it is done deliberately in history textbooks, it is demonizing a nation.

Candy coating history is not helpful no matter who applies the frosting. In addition, one-side of anything is incomplete and unfair, no matter what kind of rationale a person would offer to protect an agenda-driven bias in the teaching of any subject. However, when progressive-revisionist historians omit significant or pivotal events, the effort to portray the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is often subordinated to ideology. Of course, no one swears-in the historian as they crank out their academic material. The Catholics could relate to this as the “sin of omission” because specific historic events can be devalued or dismissed from an ideological perspective.

This seems to be what Dr. Woods, Dr. Carson, Dr. Robbins, and Larry Krieger are getting at. A deliberate attempt to alter the narrative of U.S. history to the preference    of the Leftist or of the Progressive revisionist does not provide a balanced or objective understanding of history. When history is written or taught primarily from an ideological framework construed by a Leftist worldview, there is a purpose. It is not random, nor a simplistic preference of the “educator.” Sadly, those who teach history from an intent to promote ideological interpretation do as much disservice to a balanced perspective of history as the ones who had the tendency to whitewash some historical events.

Beyond the revisionist’s tendency to conveniently or deliberately ignore some of the incredibly inspiring events in history is the effort by the more radical fringe to use history as a weapon in a blatant agenda to affect a culture or a civilization by using history as a “weapon.” There are those within the U.S. and elsewhere that make serious attempts to distort historical fact and events in order to paint a particular portrait of a nation as evil or treacherous, or imperialistic, or oppressive although in the general survey of world history the attempt would be deemed ridiculous. Yet, for younger, impressionable minds which have no basis of comparison, nor extensive life experience it is indoctrination.

To those who use “history as a weapon,” who contort it to “fit” with their imbalanced world view, a distorted view of history is used to carry on “revolution.” This extends into other academic or educational disciplines as well. And such efforts are not benign expressions of a difference of opinion in what humanity can learn from a particular discipline of study. It is a flagrant altercation of truth and a violation of the trust between the teacher and the student. The teaching of such disinformation is intended to have a specific outcome in the learner or student. It is an effort aimed at “radicalizing” the student for the purpose of fomenting rebellion or revolution. It is intended to manipulate.

Just as those who long ago tended to “whitewash” history, the “enlightened” instructor or the radical professor who is intending to convert the student, or to radicalize them is attempting to manipulate the student beyond just leaving them with an incomplete base of understanding of history. Such radical efforts is an attempt to motivate the learner to become the radical or the revolutionary for the sake of destruction of not simply the status quo, but the destruction of the foundations of a civil society. Revolutions, we are told, bring about “change” and something new, something for the better for everyone. Tell that to the Russians, tell that to the Chinese in the People’s Republic, tell that to the North Korean people.

History used as a weapon can be used to radicalize, can be used to foment revolution, but a revolution founded upon lies primarily perpetuates more lies and the major victim is truth itself, with a great deal of collateral damage among the common people. How do you think the Ayatollah Khomeini created the Mostazafan? How do you think Osama Bin Laden created Al Qaeda? The use of lies or propaganda to propagate rebellion or revolt is as old as history itself. And this gets us back to what Dr. Ben Carson was talking about. In a simple, yet very bold statement, he stated pretty much what has been presented here. It would seem that in order to deal with the lies, people need to accept, even embrace the truth.

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Dennis Jamison reinvented his life after working for a multi-billion dollar division of Johnson & Johnson for several years. Now semi-retired, he is an adjunct faculty member at West Valley College in California. He currently writes a column on US history and one on American freedom for the Communities Digital News, as well as writing for other online publications. During the 2016 presidential primaries, he worked as the leader of a network of writers, bloggers, and editors who promoted the candidacy of Dr. Ben Carson. He founded the “We the People” Network of writers and the Citizen Sentinels Project to pro-actively promote the values and principles established at the founding of the United States, and to discover and support more morally centered citizen-candidates who sincerely seek election as public servants, not politicians.
  • Terry Ponick

    The answer to the headline question: Yes. It could destroy American values. Assuming any have been left behind in the now 30-year long leftist purge of American values from all curricula at all levels.

  • mitch1014

    Excellent article, your argument and supporting points are spot on. I wonder how it is that we the silent majority within the country, have not realized how the communists…oops; I meant to say the progressives (under their more palpable moniker) have so effectively shafted our entire social order. Look at where we are today-do you recognize this country any longer, I sure don’t?

  • Carla F

    Mr. Jamison has once again delivered a clear and concise evaluation of challenging issues facing our citizenry. Using the warning issued by Dr. Ben Carson, one of the most highly respected American icon’s of our time, he details the meaning behind “it would make American student want to join ISIS.” The College Board, a $700 million dollar corporation, is registered as a not for profit, but has been de-facto privatized for years, It has built a virtual monopoly on testing programs and copyrighted materials. When one monopolizing company both writes curriculum and designs the exams to measure the student’s learning of same, whose measurement is used to dictate one’s college and life’s path, there is an insidious danger to the student who is being coerced into a tunnel of linear perspective. Only with multiple sourcing of knowledge can one exercise the freedom of thought necessary to cultivate freedom of belief, in whose expression is our cherished first amendment right of freedom of speech. One is not surprised to find this perpetuation of linear perspective as the new president of the College Board is none other than David Coleman, Common Core’s architect.

    Mr. Jamison’s insightful conclusion of cyclical lies propagating revolution as primary weapons used to fuel the reigns of dictators of evil, so clearly outlines danger to our current and future generations of students. Let us hope Dr. Carson’s wisdom for an unremitting push for truth prevails for the sake of our nation.

  • Jan Jones

    I agree with the author wholeheartedly, as well as other comments. There is little left to say, except ‘how did we let it happen?’ The only answer I can come up with is that God gave us a fighting chance to do something worthwhile ( invent a country) and we got so good at it that a whole generation came along that was spoiled rotten for having it all, and way too easily. I grew up in an era where our parents never even knew where we were, or what we were doing, they were so confident that everything was just fine. No one locked doors, and virtually everyone went to church at least once a week. A turning point happened as we became adults. We forgot our roots, we were so busy having fun. When we get spoiled and then stop thinking we should listen to God, bad things happen. And then badder. Our Founders did have a point when saying that this kind of freedom is only meant for a very moral people, and that when we stop looking to God for guidance it will not work at all. I fear our goodness will be very hard to retrieve, especially with the indoctrination taking place in the schools today. I pray for strength and wisdom for the likes of Drs. Carson, Woods, Robbins and Mr. Kreiger, and that they will continue to be heard by all who have hearts to listen. We can either become a thinking nation again or we can become a China or a Russia, which is really going to surprise a lot of Progressives when they find out that the new government really doesn’t care about the little guys at all, and there IS no recourse. We could use a patriot like Carson in the White House!