Time to Oppose the AP U.S. History Exam is Now

Published September 15, 2014

Dallas Morning News

Americans are only just now waking up to a quiet but devastatingly effective effort to replace the teaching of traditional American history in our high schools with a new, centrally controlled and sharply left-leaning curriculum.

The College Board, the company that issues the SAT and the various Advanced Placement exams, has created an elaborate new framework for the AP U.S. History Exam that will effectively force nearly all American high schools, public and private, to transform the way they teach U.S. history.

The traditional emphasis on America’s founders and the principles of constitutional government will soon be jettisoned in favor of a left-leaning emphasis on race, gender, class, ethnicity, etc.

There are serious questions about the legality of the new AP U.S. history exam, insofar as it may conflict with existing history standards in a number of states. Last week, I joined a group of education experts and researchers who published an open letter opposed to the College Board’s history framework. (The full text can be found at the National Association of Scholars website.)

However, questions about the test, as well as public debate over this massive and tremendously controversial change, have been largely suppressed by the stealthy way in which the College Board has rolled out the new test without properly notifying the states in a timely way.

The new AP U.S. history exam has been issued under the authority of David Coleman, president of the College Board and, not coincidentally, architect of the Common Core. We are witnessing a coordinated, two-pronged effort to effectively federalize all of American K-12 education, while shifting its content sharply to the left.

The College Board claims that its highly directive new framework for AP U.S. history is actually adaptable to the preferences of particular states, school districts, and teachers. This is deeply misleading. It is true that the new history framework allows teachers to include examples of their choice. Yet the framework also insists that the examples must be used to illustrate the themes and concepts behind the official College Board vision.

The upshot is that James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and the other founders are largely left out of the new test, unless they are presented as examples of conflict and identity by class, gender, race, ethnicity, etc. The Constitution can be studied as an example of the Colonists’ belief in the superiority of their own culture, for instance. But any teacher who presents a full unit on the principles of the American Constitution taught in the traditional way would be putting his students at a severe disadvantage. So while allowing some minor flexibility on details, the new AP U.S. History framework effectively forces teachers to train their students in a leftist, blame-America-first reading of history.

Texas is at the forefront of the resistance to the new AP U.S. history exam. This week, the State Board of Education will hear a resolution sponsored by Republican member Ken Mercer that rebukes and rejects the new exam.

Texas makes up about 10 percent of the College Board’s market. Were Texas to reject the new AP history exam, the entire project could be put into doubt. Texans need to wake up and demand that Mercer’s resolution be passed. The rest of the country needs to wake up and demand similar action in every state.

Just as the Common Core became an established fact before most American parents, lawmakers, and school districts even knew it existed, the new history exam is about to entrench a controversial and highly politicized national school curriculum without proper notice or debate. George Washington, Jefferson and a full understanding of our founding principles are on the way out. Race, gender, class and ethnicity are coming in, and in clear violation of the Constitution’s guarantee that education remain in control of the states.

The time to oppose the new AP U.S. history exam is now.

Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. He can be reached at [email protected]. This piece was adapted from a version that originally appeared on National Review Online.

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