We’re not sure it’s as huge a capitulation as Barack Obama’s complete surrender to Iran, but it looks like there may be Peace In Our Time in at least one theater of the Culture Wars. After a year of rightwing complaints that the revised Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) exam was teaching high school students to hate America and maybe join ISIS, the College Board has given in and announced some changes to the exam that are intended to placate the whiny titty babies who don’t seem to understand what “Advanced Placement” means. The exam framework for 2015 will add a section on “American Exceptionalism” and add additional questions that name Big Heroes like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson, whose names you might suppose students would have encountered before taking an AP class (and who would of course have been covered in any class — it’s just that they weren’t named in the framework, which instead focused on larger themes. This drove wingnuts crazy and led them to claim that the Founders had been “removed” from the teaching of history). The College Board is still saying some pretty nasty things about God’s Own America, however. The new framework includes pretty much the same number of references to slavery as the 2014 version, and it turns out we still interned Japanese-Americans during WW II.
The College Board issued an updated Frequently Asked Questions statement on its website Thursday noting that the 2014 test ” sparked significant public conversations among students, educators, historians, policymakers” — how diplomatic! — and said that they took everyone’s Important Concerns very seriously:
Every statement in the 2015 edition has been examined with great care based on the historical record and the principled feedback we received over the past year.
The College Board also promised that the revised framework provides a “clearer and more balanced approach to the teaching of American history that remains faithful to the requirements that colleges and universities set for academic credit.”
The reaction to the 2014 version of the exam was about as calm and rational as you’d expect in Rightwing America, with the Republican National Committee passing a resolution complaining that it “reflects a radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects.” The Georgia legislature introduced a bill that plagiarized all the the RNC complaints and threatened to cut funding for all AP classes, and also hold its breath until it turns gay. Oklahoma went ahead and voted to ban APUSH and replace it with American History For People What Think Right, and school board members in Colorado proposed a censorship committee that would ensure that all curricular materials would “promote patriotic material, respect for authority, and the free-market system,” and avoid material about “civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.” That one led to week-long student walkouts from high schools all over the Denver area.
But now the College Board has learned its lesson, and will continue with the 2014 test’s emphasis on critical thinking and reading original documents rather than memorizing lists of History Facts, but will also dress it up in enough Red, White, and Blue to make the idiots in the tri-corner hats stop marching around with their muskets. What remains to be seen is whether Larry Krieger, the guy who spearheaded the complaints about the 2014 exam, will be satisfied. Krieger, the publisher of a series of test-prep books keyed to the pre-2014 format of the tests, was deeply involved in the War on APUSH, and may decide that he’s satisfied with the new window-dressing, or perhaps will find something else to bitch about in the new framework. Maybe it doesn’t give Jesus enough credit for writing the Constitution.
We do wonder if the framework mentions that the term “American Exceptionalism” was coined by Joseph Stalin? We bet they’ll leave that detail up to individual teachers.