by Jeff Boone
This last month, the College Board, the nonprofit corporation that controls all the high-school Advanced Placement courses and exams, published new guidelines for the AP U.S. history test. The new guidelines replace those published only a year earlier.
The AP history framework is organized into concepts and codings.
Previous key concepts included:
“Students should be able to explain how various identities, cultures, and values have been preserved or changed in different contexts of U.S. history, with special attention given to the formation of gender, class, racial, and ethnic identities.”
“Many Europeans developed a belief in white superiority to justify their subjugation of Africans and American Indians, using several different rationales.”
“Native peoples and Africans in the Americas strove to maintain their political and cultural autonomy in the face of European challenges to their independence and core beliefs.”
“Explain how arguments about market capitalism, the growth of corporate power, and government policies influenced economic policies from the late 18th century through the early 20th century.”
The codings were explained:
“This coding helps teachers make thematic connections across the chronology of the concept outline. The codes are as follows: ID—Identity; WXT—Work, exchange, and technology; PEO—Peopling; POL—Politics and power; WOR—America in the world; ENV—Environment and geography—physical and human; CUL—Ideas, beliefs, and culture.”
What happened to cause the College Board to change much of this?
The 2014 framework caused a bit of an uproar after it was published. Although, as expected, many academics voiced support for the new guidelines, a large group of historians published a petition on the website of the National Association of Scholars, voicing strong opposition to it. Also, pushback against the framework emerged in several states.
The basis of these complaints was that the new framework pushed a one-sided ideological view over accepted and well-known historical facts.
It is clear that the College Board was concerned that its lucrative nationwide testing franchise would be at risk, with so much opposition and the probability that states would begin to reject the guidelines and develop their own. Self-preservation overruled ideological bent, and the College Board agreed to revise the guidelines to be more “balanced.”
The revised framework includes, for example:
“The effort for American independence was energized by colonial leaders such as Benjamin Franklin, as well as by popular movements that included the political activism of laborers, artisans, and women.”
The previous critics of the framework report satisfaction that the newly published framework is sufficiently balanced as the College Board had promised it would be.
What does this have to do with the popularity of Trump?
The old framework reflected the tireless work of social justice activists and the political left to inject identity politics and political correctness into the education curriculum. It was just one example of many causing a growing tide of resentment and anger over the indoctrination of students into a more liberal worldview where American history is reloaded from a modern perspective of “microagression”, “macroaggression”, “racism”, “sexism” and “white privilege.”
These then become the trigger warnings to “keep your mouth shut, or else.”
And it largely has worked.
No student with any sense of self-preservation would ever raise her hand to contest these things. Even politicians run terrified of uttering that one word that is pounced upon by the political and media speech code enforcers.
Except for Donald Trump.
Trump is egotistical, loud, and sometimes childishly combative. But Trump is effectively sticking a justified finger in the eye of those believing that they have succeeded in their Orwellian effort at national speech control. This along with his policy ideas have excited voters, and not just conservatives, besought with simmering anger over what has been happening to their country and the erosion of cherished freedoms to speak freely and not be persecuted for it.
There is a line for civility where we treat others with dignity and respect. Trump has clearly crossed that line many times. But Trump has also injected valuable debate about freedom of speech and political correctness run amok.
It connects with the problems of our education system practicing ideological group-ism indoctrination instead of simply educating using historical facts.
This nation needs to heal. It will not heal while we continue to filter history and life through the four lenses of class, gender, race and identity. It will also not heal if we fail to treat those with ideas in opposition to our ideas with dignity and respect.
Can we heal?
The revised AP history framework from the College Board is a step in the right direction. Regardless of what the motivation is, the College Board listened to the critics and responded in a respectful and dignified manner. We should all be pleased with the revised framework. We want our students to be the best creative thinkers; drawing their own conclusions from the factual teachings of history. We absolutely do not want them to fear raising their hands and asking questions about things they don’t understand and things they don’t agree with.
Also, we should value politicians that speak plainly and honestly… not those that read from prepared text as scripted attorneys navigating the risk of reprisal from those hypersensitive to react to over a growing list of restricted words. Trump’s message, if not his delivery, is also a good sign that we have elevated our acceptance of discussing important issues previously blocked by politicos and activists benefiting from speech code enforcement.
On the surface, Trump’s popularity as a candidate for President is as absurd as is Democrat Bernie Sander’s. However, it is likely that the trustees of the College Board understand why both are popular these days.