State Senate Votes to Ban AP U.S. History, Claims the Courses are “Biased”
(APN) ATLANTA — This week, on March 11, 2015, in a 38-17 party line vote, the Georgia State Senate passed SR 80, a resolution to force Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) out of Georgia schools.
Advanced Placement (AP) classes enable high school students to take college level courses and receive college credit. They are administered by the College Board, a nonprofit that also administers the SAT tests.
The College Board’s framework for teaching APUSH has been undermined by changes that amount to a “shift toward a leftward ideology… made obvious by a growing focus on group identities, such as ‘the formation of gender, class, racial and ethnic loyalties,’ at the expense of such unifying concepts as American Exceptionalism,” State Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick) states on his website.
The current framework, which guides teachers in planning their own curriculum to prepare students for the APUSH test, is not entirely new.
The College Board set out to redesign the framework beginning in 2006, prompted by feedback from educators who wanted to see more of an emphasis on critical thinking and less on rote memorization.
The new framework was released in 2012, and a survey conducted by the College Board indicated that eighty-five percent of APUSH teachers nationwide supported the changes.
So why is the framework now under attack?
It seems to be the latest secessionist trend in right-wing education policy, taking the place of last year’s anti-Common Core legislation that turned out to be wildly unpopular amongst constituents.
State Sen. Ligon introduced what turned out to be a doomed anti-Common Core bill last year, along with legislators in several states who are now on the ban-APUSH bandwagon.
Brant Frost, a Tea Partier from Coweta County, interviewed Sen. Ligon along with State Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody), who chairs the Senate Higher Education Committee, and posted the video online in January 2015.
In the interview, the Senators talk at length about their opposition to the APUSH framework. Between the two, Millar is by far the most quotable.
“Many of the questions [on the APUSH test] relate to what I call social justice issues. And there certainly is a place for social justice. But the foundations of American history, things like Manifest Destiny, the role of Capitalism, et cetera, there seems to be no emphasis at all when you read through the examination,” Millar said.
He went on to complain about how the framework makes room for the perspectives of indigenous people, poor people, and women, lamenting how different this is from the history courses he had in college decades ago.
“Did we always treat the Indians fairly? No we didn’t treat them fairly. But again, in the context of history, that wasn’t the overriding thing, it was the westward expansion, that was what it was about.”
On women’s liberation: “There’s been a differentiation between women and men since the Old Testament. And have we made a lot of progress? Yeah certainly. I’ve got two daughters and a wife, trust me, we’ve made a lot of progress.”
When it comes to poor people, Millar is disturbed by images included in the APUSH test booklet that show 19th-century immigrants living in squalid tenement housing
“If you look at the pictures they show in there…it’s all negative-type things. People living in poverty or this that and the other, versus, you know, the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge. That was pretty spectacular.”
The test question that accompanies this image is what rankles Ligon.
According to his reading, the test asks: Advocates for individuals such as those shown in the image would have most likely agreed with which of the following perspectives?
“The wrong answer is that capitalism free of government regulation would improve social conditions,” Ligon says, referring to the answer provided by the testing materials.
“So it’s giving a negative connotation to free enterprise and the understanding that people can come in, learn new skills, learn the language and better themselves.”
He bemoans the correct answer, “that government should act to eliminate the worst abuses of the industrial society.”
Off all the items these lawmakers find fault with, Millar sums up their overarching concern thusly:
“The bias I see in how they view national concepts is not how I view national concepts.”
In other words, his perspective is standard and anything else is “biased.”
SR 80 is non-binding. It essentially pressures the State School Superintendent to pressure the College Board to return to its old framework.
If the College Board does not comply [which it won’t], the Resolution instructs the Superintendent to revoke funding for APUSH courses in Georgia and redirect them to state-created alternatives.
This sequence of events is unlikely to manifest, even though Superintendent Richard Woods issued a statement in January 2015 supporting the resolution.
“I fully support SR 80’s move to ensure that Georgia’s students are being taught using the very best history standards possible. Any opportunity for our academic or our nation’s historical integrity to be eroded must not be allowed,” Woods said in a press release.
But it is hard to imagine teachers and parents sitting idly by if the Superintendent actually made a concrete move to opt out of APUSH.
“The impact would be most felt on students and their opportunity to pursue college-level course work though the AP program while still in high school,” Zachary Goldberg, a College Board spokesperson, told APN.
Better Georgia sent out a petition opposing the resolution. Meanwhile, a trending change.org petition opposes HB 1380 in Oklahoma, a similar legislative proposal to Georgia’s SR 80. It has over 2,100 signatures.
Here is a petition with over 5,000 signatures opposing the same bill:
No where in the bill is the word BAN. Headlines like this one are misleading and this article is the only biased thing I see here.
it would seem, A P Dillion, that you are both biased and illiterate. When the instructions are to defund something and push it out of the schools and replace it with some fake history, then it is effectively banned.
I am humiliated right now to live in the state of Georgia. This is totally ridiculous..have they never heard of the saying that you can’t rewrite history? We did some terrible things to people in this country..that is a fact..and your telling me it’s more important to focus on the building of a bridge. How dare you? Why don’t we just take out every reference to slavery, our treatment of American Indians, immigrants..etc. Because clearly all we need to know is how the 1% got where they are today.
The development of the country is far more important than how a certain group of people was treated. We did some terrible things to the Indians. But guess what? We won and they lost. They had their chance to defeat us and failed. That’s how history works. Winners get to write history, and losers mostly get swept aside, especially if they fail to assimilate and marginalize themselves.
Carnivor: I assume you also believe that slavery was simple commerce. A few million Africans struggled to not be sold into slaverly but failed. They lost and “we” won right? And millions of Jews, Gypsies, Johova’s Witnesses. Slaves, etc were worked to death in consentration camps. They lost and Hiltler won. Dog eat dog and devil take the himdmost. Right?
The statement “history is written by the winners” is most often quoted to denote an unreliable retelling of an event due to the lack of an opponent to discredit any lies of omission, exaggerations, or half-truths. It’s exactly what you say to describe an event which is widely misinterpreted due to the elimination or marginalization of an entire group’s perspective. That you would use the phrase not as vilification, but the justification of a slanted portrayal of American history is the most ironic thing here.
A history class is not where propaganda and unwarranted patriotism should be fostered from a worldly, objective perspective. Nationalism is all well and good, but should be a result of genuine pride in the achievements of a nation in SPITE of their faults, not out of ignorance to them. If there is real fear that one might come to dislike the US after hearing not only the good, but also the bad in equal amounts, perhaps there is a good reason for that – it should not be the government’s duty to redirect their thoughts so cheaply.
it is sad to see such ignorant, backward thinking. Thank goodness my children and grandchildren are out of school. Ignorance in action is a frightening thing to watch.
AP history helps motivated students. Every class they complete puts them that much ahead in college. Its a class they don’t have to take out a loan for. Its a class their parents don’t have to pay for. Seems short sighted. Trust that our kids will learn to think for themselves. Encourage debate in class. Ask good questions. In historical contexts, there are many perspectives which should be considered from the view of those involved. Critical thinking is work.
Having been a student in Atlanta K-12, it wasn’t until I left the region for New England that I was delighted enough to learn that all the whitewash history woefully lacking in many ways. I was taught enough to be ignorant. College pressed me enough that I became intrigued enough to want to learn more about my people. It is embarrasing that AP (the top tier) is full of half truths. History has many dimensions. Unfortunately and sadly, history is also only what gets remembered.
If educators would stop re-writing history to push their liberal agenda, this would never be an issue. The Democrats are right, there are two Americas… the America that works and the America that doesn’t. The America that contributes and the America that doesn’t. It’s not the haves and the have not’s, it’s the dos and the don’ts. Some people do their duty as Americans, obey the law, support themselves, contribute to society, and others don’t. That’s the divide in America.
ZPF you’re a coward if you think that the only way to tell the story of america is one which refuses to speak honestly about what happened
just a straight up yellow bellied coward. i bet you lie to your wife
The writer of and the supporters of this bill are ignorant! The question is the article asks a student to analyze and determine what someone’s perspective might be based upon their living conditions. Nothing in the question states that any of the beliefs are facts. It is an opinion that the APUSH student would know (because they have a clear understanding of the thinking of all sectors of society–the purpose of the course) because they’ve been in a class where all of these issues were discussed. It’s not the college board that’s pushing an agenda. It’s the writer of this bill. That’s the person that wants to get rid of any curriculum that doesn’t support his ideology. What happened to creating well rounded students that could analyze and think critically. No! We try to ridicule any person or persons that don’t share our singular belief! Shame on you!
The “thinking of all sectors of society” is NOT the purpose of the course. The purpose of the course is to present an unbiased look at events in American history, how those events impacted the people involved, and how they are connected to subsequent events. The reasons squalid tenement housing sprang up in places like NYC during the Industrial Revolution are much more complex than simply blaming “capitalism”, and even the use of the word “capitalism” in this context is very disingenuous because modern capitalism and its relationship to our society bear little resemblance to the almost feudal relationship between workers and industrialists at that time. Posing a question in this format requires the student to adopt an ideological position in order to answer it correctly which does a disservice to both the student and the material itself. Advocates for the poor living in urban tenements ,such as photojournalist Jacob Riis, did a lot of good and helped bring about some necessary changes. Some blamed “capitalism” while others didn’t, but their opinions are hardly the most important aspect of the discussion. Reducing these events to an idiotic question like the one presented here is an obvious attempt to introduce an anti-capitalist bias into the material, and that’s certainly NOT what the course is for either.
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I took AP U.S. History during my junior year in high school way back in 1996-7 (maintained an “A” average all 4 quarters as I recall). My high school was in southeast Virginia and had a nearly even 50/50 split in the percentage of black and white students; this was also reflected in the AP U.S. History class.
I remember that the negative treatment of Native Americans, black people (both during and post-slavery), women, and immigrants were not only mentioned, but took up quite a bit of our classroom discussion time. So were the negative effects of the industrial revolution on low-income urban migrants from other countries as well as rural areas of the United States. Subjects such as Susan B. Anthony and the women’s suffrage movement, Roosevelt’s New Deal, and the Civil Rights Movement were presented in a favorable, non-critical light (we watched “Separate But Equal”, a 1991 film about the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown vs Board of Education, and it was worked into the curriculum) and at no point was the concept of “American exceptionalism” introduced as an objective concept. Obviously, we focused on the achievements of this country and its inhabitants since this was AP *U.S.* history, but I don’t recall being told that “America is the greatest country on earth” or anything along those lines. At no point was any ideological stance taken by our teacher, and no attempt was made to excuse the suffering experienced by Native Americans, women, minorities, immigrants, or any other group. Remarkable achievements by individuals belonging to those groups were highlighted and given a respectful amount of attention. The material was presented without any detectable bias and there was quite a bit of rote memorization involved, but that’s probably why I can still remember so much of it 20 years later, and as students we were definitely given a chance to discuss and critically analyze the material on a regular basis.
It sounds as though the conservative State Senators are overreacting, but I wouldn’t dismiss their concerns out of hand as there does appear to be a general trend in the last few years for educational materials pertaining to American history to either:
a) Adopt a focus on social justice issues, resulting in the material taking an implied ideological stance (as demonstrated by the question from the course brought up by the senator) which can alienate students or stifle critical discussion.
b) Go completely in the opposite direction due to an overreaction to the above scenario by instilling a sense of “American exceptionalism” to the material and glossing over negative events in American history as well as reducing the focus on minority achievements, which also has a tendency to alienate students and stifle critical discussion.
Since neither “side” of the ideological divide will admit to having any bias, I’m not sure how to fix this problem. But I hope it does get fixed soon because the students are the ones who ultimately lose out because of all this petty squabbling.