The new Advanced Placement United States History (APUSH) curriculum as it has been revised by the College Board has stirred up a hornet’s nest of controversy from Conservative groups around the nation. Of course the College Board or their apologists, have come out to allay the fears of various scholars and patriot groups, yet it does not appear that any amount of criticism will motivate the College Board to re-revise the material in the curriculum. Despite serious criticism, the rationale of the College Board portrays the new AP US History course curriculum as an effort to focus students on “historical thinking skills” with the noble intent of transforming high school students into “apprentice historians.”
Ostensibly, the College Board appears to have established a noble goal as the new curriculum tends to send the message to high school students that they are already at a level in which their analyses of certain historical events will be a prime factor in determining their ability to function at college level courses in history. Basically, the analytic thinking skills are an important component in teaching many subjects, and especially in history courses. However with regard to history, without a complete and objective presentation of essential facts, without regard to the proper sequence of events in time, or key historical figures, many analyses will miss the mark.
What often manifests in reality in high school classes is that students will mirror the analysis or appraisal of historical events that are presented to them from instructors or the source materials their instructors provide them. This is not to imply that students are not bright enough, or capable of their own thinking regarding historical events, or human history in general. However, when students are given the actual facts of any subject matter, they are capable of making intelligent, insightful assessments. Yet, for the sake of getting a decent grade, many young people who study history simply go the easy route of repeating what their instructor teaches.
In essence, the opportunity for indoctrination is usually quite real. Many concerned scholars agree. As early as July 2nd of this year, Dr. Peter Wood of The National Association of Scholars, offered serious criticism of the revised standard for teaching U.S. History to young Americans. 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…” While he admits that such content is worth knowing, but if a balance is not presented with other historical reference points, much is sacrificed.
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 APUSH standards make substantial changes with “a great deal of important U.S. history given cursory treatment and some ideological themes… sounded rather loudly…” He also argued that “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.” While the College Board would counter that the course is “modelled on a comparable college course.” Wood finds that disturbing.
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 would view Wood’s claims as extreme preferring to believe that “the truth lies somewhere in between” because it is hard to conceive that the College Board’s intent is Leftist indoctrination.
Yet, other scholars are as concerned as Wood, and have also challenged the revised APUSH content. Jane Robbins, a senior fellow at the American Principles Project, and Larry Krieger, a retired APUSH teacher initiated their criticisms as early as March of this year in 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.”
More recently, Dr. Benjamin Carson, the renowned neurosurgeon, and Conservative best-selling author, a highly intelligent black professional and scholar whom Leftists and “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. His was a bold, but very insightful statement. Carson and others who agree with him are seriously calling attention to a daring agenda to rewrite U.S. history with a definite ideological bias and an insidious intent to undermine the fabric of the traditional American values.
Dr. Carson, who has recently published two hardcover books touching on a number of those traditional values, has emerged as one of the leading spokesmen for preservation of traditional American values and a return to the fundamental founding principles that the Founding Fathers 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.
A major 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. This is certainly acceptable and a commendable point. However, when “truth” is defined as the ideological or politically correct interpretation of history, it cannot be accepted as objective reality. Progressive-revisionist historians who infuse political persuasion into the teaching of history should not be afraid of the truth of history revealing any good that occurred, especially as tyranny was defeated by those with the courage to fight for freedom.
One of the significant handmaidens of tyranny is ignorance, and Progressive-revisionist historians should not be afraid of the truth of history revealing the good that happened as result of political actions, decisions, events, policies, procedures, or programs. Why would anyone be afraid of presenting a balanced perception of U.S. history? Yet, the revisionist historians refuse to examine the entire body of evidence in history. When the emphasis is less of a focus upon facts and more of an emphasis upon the “politically correct” view of history, the optimum goal may very well be to create “apprentice historians,” but mainly those who agree with their ideological framework.
Unfortunately, beyond the reach of the average individual is the capability to discern fact from fiction or myth from truth without a point of reference. Students tend to accept the essential “truth” regarding a particular period of history when a designated expert like a teacher imparts such knowledge to those who pay attention. 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 “politically correct,” then some part of history is lost to the student. It is hard enough to keep students interested in the study of history, but to eliminate important aspects or events based upon bias or preference is not only unprofessional, it is also deceptive and deceitful.
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.” Howard Zinn is right when he deemed scholarly efforts that omit pertinent historical information “…not a technical necessity but an ideological choice.” This holds true for him as well as other overly aggressive revisionists because when the teaching of history ceases to be unbiased scholarship, it often morphs into doctrinaire diatribe. 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.
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.” 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.
The “enlightened” instructor or the radical professor, who intends to indoctrinate 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 are 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. 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 search for and know the truth.