What Did You Learn In School Today?

In North Carolina, high school students are required to complete two courses entitled American History I: Founding Principles and American History II in order to graduate. Students also have the option of substituting Advanced Placement U. S. History (APUSH) for these two courses. So what does AP U.S. History teach? Let’s looks at some of the mechanics of how this whole process works.

A student who takes AP U.S. History will be given tests by his teacher during the school year. If he receives a satisfactory grade, he passes the course and gets credit for it. However, in order to get college credit for having taking an American History course, he has to pass a national test on the subject. The national test is designed by David Coleman, now president of the College Board, formerly the architect of the Common Core Standards.

According to the Course and Exam Description put out by the College Board about the AP History Course,the goal of the course is to teach the student ‘historical thinking skills.’ How about teaching them history instead?

Here are some of the questions and concepts taking from the booklet put out by the College Board explaining the goals and concepts in the AP History course. The quotes are taken directly from the teacher’s guide:

Describing the historical period of 1607-1754, the teacher’s guide explains:

The British-American system of slavery developed out of the economic, demographic,and geographic characteristics of the British-controlled regions of the New World.

…Reinforced by a strong belief in British racial and cultural superiority, the British system enslaved black people in perpetuity, altered African general and kinship relationships in the colonies, and was one fact that led the British colonists into violent confrontations with native peoples.

Slavery was then, and still is, common in Muslim cultures. It was the Muslim slave traders who were capturing the slaves and selling them to the British and the British colonies. It was, later on, the British who ended the practice of slavery. Many Muslim cultures still practice slavery. It wasn’t and isn’t about the British and their colonies.

The AP History section on World War II is very limited. Among other things, it states:

Wartime experiences, such as the internment of Japanese Americans, challenges to civil liberties, debates over race and segregation, and the decision to drop the atomic bomb raised questions about American values.

No they didn’t. The internment of the Japanese was a violation of their civil liberties. It was wrong. However, it was understandable as a panicked response to the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Many historians today view that internment as a serious mistake. The debates over race and segregation were needed–we were still a segregated society in many areas of the country as was most of the rest of the world. The military made great strides during this time in its acceptance of black soldiers. Not perfect strides, but definite progress in the right direction. The dropping of the atomic bomb ultimately saved American lives and the Japanese culture. Japan would have been totally destroyed by ground troops with heavy losses to American troops had we not forced their surrender with atomic bombs. The debate on these issues is a credit to American values.

There is no mention in the World War II summary of the German concentration camps and the people killed in them. There is no mention of D-Day and the risks (and reasons to take those risks) taken on that day. There is no recognition of the heroes of World War II.

There is no understanding in the AP History course of the greatness and uniqueness that is America. That greatness and uniqueness comes from the genius of our Founding Fathers and the Constitution they wrote. It seems to me that the students would be better served by spending their time studying the U.S. Constitution and the efforts and principles involved in writing it.