“Competition for the College Board, Now More Than Ever”

 

Dear Friends,

A very informative article written by Emmett McGroarty and Jane Robbins. Emmett McGroarty is Education Director at American Principles Project. Jane Robbins is a senior fellow at American Principles Project.

“Competition for the College Board, Now More Than Ever” 

When teachers and scholars began to speak out against its 2014 Advanced Placement U. S. History (APUSH) Framework, the College Board initially dismissed the critics as extremists unworthy of attention. The response changed somewhat when the Texas State Board of Education challenged the curriculum’s leftist tenor.

Texas’s status as a major supplier of lucrative AP students prompted the College Board to move into Phase Two of its defense, hiring high-powered lobbying firms to persuade critics that the Framework didn’t say what it said. Phase Three – agreeing to consider the objections and revise the Framework – didn’t happen until the College Board learned of serious discussions to create competition to its near-monopoly on advanced placement courses.

So now, only a week or so before many APUSH teachers and students head back to school, the College Board released its “updated” Framework. Problem solved? Not quite.

To be sure, the College Board has now excised the most egregious statements in the Framework (for example, the claim that Manifest Destiny was about “racial and cultural superiority” and that the Cold War ended only when Ronald Reagan ceased his “bellicose” behavior and made friends with Gorbachev). It has also toned down the suffocating emphasis on identity-group conflict and the leftist trinity of race, gender, and class as the lens through which all of American history must be viewed.

To address the absence of important individuals, events, and concepts, the College Board has now plugged in a mention of some of the most glaring omissions. American exceptionalism? Check. James Madison? Check. D-Day? Check. Rev. Martin Luther King? Check.

But underlying problems remain. The updated Framework, though certainly less problematic than the original, continues to emphasize global perspectives, cultural blending and conflict, and other themes dear to the hearts of leftist college professors. But the worst problem is not what it contains, but what it doesn’t.

Yes, the concept of American exceptionalism is mentioned, but there’s no explanation of what that means or why it’s important. History professor Larry Schweikart has elucidated the four primary components of American exceptionalism: “1) a Christian, mostly Protestant religious heritage; 2) a heritage of common law; 3) a free market; and 4) private property with titles and deeds.” As Dr. Schweikert notes, “While #3 did not come along arguably until the nation was well-founded, the other three were at work in American colonial history as nowhere else in the world, not even England.”

That is what is meant by American exceptionalism — but an APUSH teacher who sticks to this updated Framework will never transmit that understanding to his or her students. Nor will those students understand the riveting stories of the heroes, entrepreneurs, and yes, villains of American history, because those stories simply aren’t there. All emphasis is on de-personalized forces and movements. Merely mentioning a person or a battle, without fleshing out the significance, is inadequate.

The revised Framework, as APUSH teacher Elizabeth Altham concludes, perpetuates the problem of elevating “forces” over individuals. This emphasis, she says, makes it harder to teach the course in a way that engages students and makes history come alive for them.

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the updated Framework was written by people acting under compulsion, who didn’t really believe in what they were forced to include.

So we’re left, still, with an attempt by the College Board to construct its own history curriculum and impose it on the states, to the detriment of state history standards. And since the update was released so late, the new textbooks cannot be revised in time for the new school year (if they ever will be); nor can teachers be given meaningful professional development about the changes.

The obvious motive behind the College Board’s revisions was to tamp down discussion of competition. No doubt some conservatives will accept the new version, unconcerned about the motive as long as the product is better. But APUSH is only one AP course undergoing revision. AP European History, for example, is next up – and that Framework is cut from the same leftist mold as the original APUSH Framework. Will it take another 18-month outcry from the public to force the College Board to backtrack on that as well? And on every other course that may be politicized in the future?

The only solution to this problem is competition. If other companies enter the lucrative advanced-placement market, states and schools will be able to choose the products they prefer. They may choose the College Board’s AP if they like it. But they should have a choice. The saga of APUSH should remove all doubt about that.

Read more:

http://dailycaller.com/2015/08/20/competition-for-the-college-board-now-more-than-ever/#ixzz3jjX46dhg

 

Respectfully,

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

Tincymiller35@aol.com

www.tincymiller.com

APUSH Revisions Won’t Do: The College Board Needs Competition

 

Dear Friends,

An informative article written by Stanley Kurtz.  Mr. Kurtz is an American conservative commentator.  He graduated from Haverford College and holds a Ph.D. in social anthropology from Harvard University. He did his field work in India and taught at Harvard and the University of Chicago. Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a former adjunct fellow with Hudson Institute, with a special interest in America’s “culture wars.” He has published extensively on family life, child rearing, religion, and psychology in various parts of the world.

 

“APUSH Revisions Won’t Do: The College Board Needs Competition”

 

The College Board has just published a revision of its controversial AP U.S. history framework. The revision is designed to meet the concerns of the 2014 framework’s many critics. As one of those critics, I want to give a preliminary response. This is also the first in what will be a series of posts on the new AP U.S. history framework and related issues. Based on a preliminary reading of the Thematic Learning Objectives and the first two historical periods, I would say that the revisions do not allay my concerns about the College Board’s approach to AP U.S. history. The College Board has removed some of the framework’s most egregiously biased formulations, yet the basic approach has not changed. Since the College Board has said that the revised framework will not require modifications to textbooks, there is reason to believe that we are looking at largely cosmetic changes. The textbooks are what students actually see.  If the latest revisions won’t change the texts, they can’t mean much. Based on my reading of the first two periods, even if the College Board does call for textbooks to be revised along the lines of the new framework, the changes would be trivial. The first historical period (1491-1607), for example, is still shaped by a “three worlds meet” approach descended from the leftist National History Standards of 1994. In other words, the revised framework remains aggressively relativist, avoiding consideration of the deeper cultural sources of Western expansion and success. The emphasis instead is on mutual interaction and influence among European settlers, Native Americans, and African slaves. There was mutual influence among these three groups, of course, but the core story of how the Renaissance individualism, learning, innovation, science, and enterprise sparked a world-changing cultural transformation is evaded. The continuing emphasis on material causes (eg. international trade in new foodstuffs) keeps the focus off of uncomfortable issues of cultural influence and development. While the College Board has added a theme on American and National Identity—and even briefly used the phrase “American Exceptionalism”—I’ve so far seen little new substance to fill out the meaning of that theme. There is still no treatment of John Winthrop’s City on a Hill speech, or of the broader point that the New England settlers saw their venture as a model for the world. New England town meetings are briefly referenced, yet without any explanation of how this led to a tradition of localism in America quite different from Europe. Merely referencing the words, “American exceptionalism” isn’t enough. To be meaningful, the concept has to be filled out with powerful examples. Clearly, the College Board is worried about competition.  Its initial response to critics was to dismiss their concerns. Only after I raised the issue of competition here at NRO—and especially after the Georgia State Senate passed a resolution calling for competition in AP testing—did the College Board change its tune, acknowledge errors, and promise revisions. Whether for self-interested motives or not, of course, it’s nice to see that the College Board has removed some of the most egregious and controversial formulations from its framework. Unfortunately, the revised framework’s overall approach continues to give short shrift to important themes in American history. The only real solution is to nurture competition in AP testing. Whatever limited improvement we’re now seeing is due to the specter of competition. Only competition in AP testing can restore choice to the states and school districts that by rights ought to control their own curricula. Without competition, whatever the College Board says, goes. Competition is the real issue. No company likes rivals, but the College Board is more than an ordinary monopoly. There is an ideological as well as an economic motivation behind the College Board’s actions. Run by Common Core architect David Coleman, the College Board is committed to creating a de facto national curriculum. That is why it is slowly but surely substituting lengthy and highly directive curricular frameworks for brief topical outlines in every single one of its AP courses. As a program of federal subsidies has massively expanded the population of students taking AP courses, the College Board has seized the opportunity to gain effective control of the nation’s high school curriculum by issuing detailed teaching frameworks.  This amounts to an end-run around the states and school districts that by rights ought to be in charge of what’s taught in the schools. In the absence of competition in AP testing, the College Board will become a kind of unelected national school board. The APUSH revisions, in my views, are largely an effort to silence public criticism and prevent competition and choice from emerging in AP testing. One of the strongest indications that this is the case is the AP European history framework, brand new this year. The new European history framework is egregiously biased in all the ways that the 2014 AP U.S. history framework was. It downplays national identity, focuses overmuch on the evils of colonialism, is hostile to capitalism, downplays the excesses of the left and the problems of communism, and gives short shrift both to religion and to the sources of the classic Western liberalism. The new AP European framework makes it clear that nothing in the College Board’s approach to history has fundamentally changed. The College Board continues to be under the influence of leftist historians. If opposition to the U.S. history curriculum dies down, the College Board’s favored historians will eventually pull the APUSH curriculum even further to the left than it was in 2014. Again, this is a problem that only competition can solve. As so often happens, history is repeating itself. In 1994-95, widespread initial condemnation of the National History Standards (NHS) for leftward bias brought forth a revision in response to critics. That revision, which removed the most biased phrases and made a few somewhat more substantive revisions (especially to the controversial section on the Cold War), split the opposition to NHS. Some critics quieted down, while others said that nothing fundamental had changed. In 1997, a couple of years after the controversy over the National History Standards had died down, Penn State Education professor David Warren Saxe published a review of American history textbooks in The Weekly Standard. Saxe concluded that the widely touted revision of the National History Standards “now seems a ruse.” After carefully studying American history texts, Saxe concluded that the influence of the original and highly controversial edition of NHS was “pervasive” in the textbooks. Saxe then added, “In fact, these books read like one long lawyer’s brief in the case of Oppressed People v. White Males. At every juncture of American history, the trinity of race, class, and gender is revealed somehow to be at work.” He concluded, “The national history standards once thought to be discredited have made their way into the nation’s classrooms.” The College Board’s declaration that no textbook changes are needed to accommodate its revisions is the tip-off that the same thing is happening again. And as noted, even were the College Board to loudly demand that textbooks must conform to the changes, there is very little to change.  Essentially, the College Board appears to have done what the NHS revisers did: cut out the most controversial phrases, tweaked the worst sections, but done little to create a genuine alternative approach. Only competition in AP testing can restore meaningful choice to the teaching of history. Whatever positive changes have emerged in the College Board’s revisions are due to the specter of competition. Competing companies with competing frameworks shaped by top-flight professors from competing schools of thought would keep each other honest and restore choice to the states and school districts that by rights ought to be in charge of what their children learn. — Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

He can be reached at comments.kurtz@nationalreview.com
Respectfully,

 

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com