This week, the Texas State Board of Education moved forward with mandating that the national Advanced Placement US History curriculum be replaced by one that is specific to Texas, with proponents of the measure citing fears of anti-American content.
The move comes after the College Board, the New Jersey-based company who administers the AP test, instituted an overhaul of the curriculum that was designed to shift the course’s focus away from memorization. They created a framework for teaching US History that could be adapted for each state in its own preparation for the AP test.
For many conservatives, the new curriculum also includes a shift away from American exceptionalism–which they see as unacceptable. Some conservative activists have even likened the new AP US History curriculum to “mind control” engineered by the federal government.
As conservative activists complainedin a letter to the College Board:
“The new Framework inculcates a consistently negative view of American history by highlighting oppressors and exploiters while ignoring the dreamers and innovators who built our country. Instead of striving to build a ‘City upon a Hill,’…the colonists are portrayed as bigots who developed ‘a rigid racial hierarchy’ that was in turn derived from ‘a strong belief in British racial and cultural superiority.'”
Additionally, they took issue with the fact that the curriculum’s section on World War II highlights the injustice and hypocrisy of Japanese internment camps:
“…the Framework makes no mention of the sacrifices America’s Greatest Generation made to rescue much of the world from a long night of Nazi and Japanese tyranny. Instead, the Framework focuses solely on the negative aspects of America’s involvement in the war: ‘the internment of Japanese Americans, challenges to civil liberties, debates over race and segregation, and the decision to drop the atomic bomb raised questions about American values.'”
The conservative activists also noted in their complaint that the new curriculum supposedly spends more time talking about the Black Panthers than George Washington.
Evidently, Texas conservatives believe it is more important to emphasize patriotism over critical thinking about our nation’s past, and actual facts about American history–even though actual educators are mostly in favor of the curriculum’s new approach.
As officials from the College Board pointed out, “the new course and exam were designed to be flexible enough to conform to curriculum standards in different states.” That could allow the SBOE to address some of its more reasonable concerns, such as a perceived lack of discussion of civil rights leaders, and of the Holocaust. Nonetheless, the SBOE is still moving forward with rejecting the curriculum entirely.
San Antonio Republican SBOE member Ken Mercer, who has previously been an anti-evolution advocate, has said that implementing this provision is necessary. Other moderate Republicans, and even Democrats, have supported the measure, as it “doesn’t change the facts” and “reaffirms Texas’ commitment to its own curriculum.”
Rejecting a curriculum that teaches students to look critically at US History by pointing out instances of injustice in our past is the wrong choice for Texas. Between this and the potential new history textbooks that say that Moses inspired the Constitution, it seems like the SBOE is trying to create a generation of students that are misinformed and unable to think critically. Current health, education, and other disparities are based on the history of injustices in our country’s past–and that is especially true in Texas, where there still huge gaps based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and more. Students who are taught to thoughtfully analyze history, with all its complexities, will be better equipped to take on the challenges that await them in the future. But if the SBOE has its way, Texas students will continue to lag behind the rest of the country.