Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Not OK, Oklahoma!

Apparently, there is a movement in the Oklahoma legislature to ban AP history because it does not adequately teach "American Exceptionalism":

An Oklahoma legislative committee overwhelmingly voted to ban Advanced Placement U.S. History class, persuaded by the argument that it only teaches students “what is bad about America.” Other lawmakers are seeking a court ruling that would effectively prohibit the teaching of all AP courses in public schools.

Oklahoma Rep. Dan Fisher (R) has introduced “emergency” legislation “prohibiting the expenditure of funds on the Advanced Placement United States History course.” Fisher is part of a group called the “Black Robe Regiment” which argues “the church and God himself has been under assault, marginalized, and diminished by the progressives and secularists.” The group attacks the “false wall of separation of church and state.” The Black Robe Regiment claims that a “growing tide of special interest groups indoctrinating our youth at the exclusion of the Christian perspective.”

Fisher said the Advanced Placement history class fails to teach “American exceptionalism.” The bill passed the Oklahoma House Education committee on Monday on a vote of 11-4....

For other lawmakers, however, Fisher is thinking too small. Oklahoma Rep. Sally Kern (R) claims that all “AP courses violate the legislation approved last year that repealed Common Core.” She has asked the Oklahoma Attorney General to issue a ruling. Kern argues that “AP courses are similar to Common Core, in that they could be construed as an attempt to impose a national curriculum on American schools.”

Oklahoma, I've found, is a very strange place.  

Deflecting the main question for a moment, let me ask a tangentially related question:

Does it strike anybody else as strange that spell check always flags "American Exceptionalism" as a non-existent word?

Rising to the question.

1. I have one very cynical response. As person who stands in front of hundreds of eighteen-year-old recent graduates of high school every year, I can tell you that my students come into class knowing very little that legislators assume they know because a law somewhere says certain facts and people and ideas shall be inculcated. As a result, I always look somewhat askance at these battles in state legislatures.

2. Less cynical (hopefully), I believe wholeheartedly that a large part (maybe the biggest part) of who we are and who we are going to be is who we say we are. We will live up to the ideals we promote and embrace in our community. There really is a fight on for the soul of our nation (there always is). The culture war is not a joke. The fights over our national narratives are much more than merely academic.

3. I do not see a discussion of "American Exceptionalism" as in any way inappropriate. We should definitely be talking about what this means to US.
not be discounted. Their perspectives, molded by what they learned in college and in life, cannot be effectively "controlled" in the classroom by the powers that be, provided they are clever and subtle enough to escape detection. Of course, it works both ways. Optimists will see history in a different light than skeptics, as with everything else in life.
Somehow my comment was truncated. Please ignore.
The real problem with AP History, and most state curricula for that matter, is the conspicuous lack--and, in some cases, the outright obfuscation--of Texan Exceptionalism. I fear for the heart of this nation when we no longer remember the Alamo.
CTL, I thought the same thing! Waco Farmer-- AP History is a test, not a narrow curriculum… there are many ways to teach it, and that would (in an active class) include discussions of American self-definition, I think.
CTL and Osler: When I was in third and fourth grade in Highland Park, Texas, we took Texas History each year. Not U.S. History, not World History. Texas History.

I live in the frozen North now, but I can still tell you about the Alamo, and the Battle of San Jacinto, and Bowie and Travis and Crockett, and the Texas State flower and bird and song. I remember.
Just a test?

Admittedly, I am no expert on the AP program.

But I will submit this document in excess of 125 pages purporting to be an "AP United States History Course and Exam Description Including the Curriculum Framework, Effective Fall 2014," offered up by an organization calling itself the "College Board."

So, if this is actually what we are talking about (serious question--I don't know enough about all this to certify this document), we are presumably talking about a debate over curriculum.
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It's a course that prepares you to take the AP exam at the end of the year. The course varies based on who is teaching it, but all classes are taught with the exam in mind (which is written by The College Board, the SAT folks). And private schools also offer AP classes, too, so whatever a state legislature decides will not affect all students in the state. Heck, any student can take the test if they want to pay the fee.

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