New AP U.S. History curriculum has nation questioning the balance between patriotism and the negative aspects of American history
By Kimmy Sullivan, ’15
“History is written by the victors,” the old saying goes. This enduring mantra has become a national issue since College Board released a redesigned curriculum for the Advanced Placement U.S. History course in 2012. The framework, implemented at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, has recently sparked debate around the nation. Some argue the new framework places excessive emphasis on the negative aspects of America’s past, while belittling or even omitting the positive.
According to a statement released by Senior Vice President of the Advanced Placement Program Trevor Packer, “the College Board began a redesign of the AP U.S. History course and exam in response to the overwhelming sentiment of AP teachers that the course required them to cover too many topics in not enough depth.”
While the redesign was intended to make the course easier on teachers, the recent backlash has been overwhelming.
The Oklahoma State House of Representatives Education Committee passed a bill on Feb. 17 that would replace College Board’s redesign with one that promotes a more positive view of the country.
“Under [College Board’s] new framework, the emphasis of instruction is on America as a nation of oppressors and exploiters,” Representative Dan Fisher (R), author of the bill, told Politico. However, on Feb. 19, Fisher withdrew the controversial bill for revision.
Oklahoma is not alone in its quest to oust the new framework; opposition to the redesign has also surfaced in Texas, Georgia, Nebraska, North Carolina and Tennessee.
Infamous for its rigorous workload, AP U.S. History is one of the first AP class available to students at UAHS. Junior Nick Amore took the course last year and remembers its difficulty.
“It’s…the hardest class I’ve taken so far because of the amount of material you have to memorize,” Amore said.
However, due to changes made, students may be able to focus more on analytical thinking than on just memorizing facts.
AP U.S. History teacher Betsy Sidor said the biggest changes to the curriculum can be seen in the AP exam.
According to Sidor, the new curriculum focuses on historical thinking skills like analyzing patterns of continuity and change from one time period to another and crafting an argument based on historical information. In short, students spend more time learning how to critically think about American history and less time memorizing facts.
Regarding content, the new framework focuses more on recognizing all the groups in America during a given time period rather than just the endeavors of the white man. While many partisans feel the framework has become more liberal, Sidor said it depends on how you define the word.
“If liberal means that everybody matters, it doesn’t matter what their race, religion, or creed are, then [the new curriculum] is liberal,” Sidor said.
However, despite these technical changes in curriculum, students taking AP U.S. History at UAHS won’t see much change in content from past years; even the textbook will remain the same. Amore said that when he was an AP U.S. History student, before the implement of the redesign, the class offered a mix of both positive and negative aspects of American history.
“I think it just tries to tell history,” Amore said. “I think it’s important to learn about the negatives anyway because then you appreciate what America is now.”
While the redesign may be groundbreaking in some areas of the country, students at UAHS shouldn’t expect a drastic shift in content.
“[Before the redesign,] we looked at Native Americans, slaves, African Americans, and women,” Sidor said. “I don’t see that the history that I’m teaching today is any different than what I’ve taught in the last few years.”