Last year, the College Board, under the leadership of David Coleman, introduced a new APUSH, (Advanced Placement U. S. History) Curriculum Framework. I have previously written about the content of the new APUSH curriculum (rightwinggranny.com). If you would like to see all of the articles, use the search engine at the top of the page. However, in this article I would like to share some quotes from a speech given by Dr. Wilfred M. McClay, G.T. and Libby Blankenship Professor in the History of Liberty at the University of Oklahoma. Dr. McClay spoke on July 10, 2015, at Hillsdale College. The full text of his remarks can be found at the Imprimis section of the Hillsdale College website.
Here are a few excerpts from his speech:
…the chief purpose of a high school education in American history is as a rite of civic membership, an act of inculcation and formation, a way in which the young are introduced to the fullness of their political and cultural inheritance as Americans, enabling them to become literate and conversant in its many features, and to appropriate fully all that it has to offer them, both its privileges and its burdens. To make its stories theirs, and thereby let them come into possession of the common treasure of its cultural life. In that sense, the study of history is different from any other academic subject. It is not merely a body of knowledge. It also ushers the individual person into membership in a common world, and situates them in space and time.
This is especially true in a democracy. The American Founders, and perhaps most notably Thomas Jefferson, well understood that no popular government could flourish for long without an educated citizenry—one that understood the special virtues of republican self-government, and the civic and moral duty of citizens to uphold and guard it. As the historian Donald Kagan has put it, “Democracy requires a patriotic education.” It does so for two reasons: first, because its success depends upon the active participation of its citizens in their own governance; and second, because without such an education, there would be no way to persuade free individuals of the need to make sacrifices for the sake of the greater good.
…The 2014 framework grants far more extensive attention to “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.” The change is very clear: the new framework represents a shift from national identity to subcultural identities. Indeed, the new framework is so populated with examples of American history as the conflict between social groups, and so inattentive to the sources of national unity and cohesion, that it is hard to see how students will gain any coherent idea of what those sources might be. This does them, and all Americans, an immense disservice. Instead of combating fracture, it embraces it.
If this framework is permitted to take hold, the new version of the test will effectively marginalize traditional ways of teaching about the American past, and force American high schools to teach U.S. history from a perspective that self-consciously seeks to decenter American history. Is this the right way to prepare young people for American citizenship? How can we call forth the acts of sacrifice that our democracy needs, not only on the battlefield but also in our daily lives—the acts of dedication to the common good that are at the heart of civilized life—without training up citizens who know about and appreciate that democracy, care about the common good, and feel themselves a part of their nation’s community of memory? How can we expect our citizens to grapple intelligently with enduring national debates—such as over the role of the U.S. Constitution, or about the reasons for the separation of powers and limited government—if they know nothing of the long trail of those particular debates, and are instead taught to translate them into the one-size-fits-all language of the global and transnational?
Please follow the link above to Imprimis to read the entire speech. Dr. McClay has named one of the causes of the divisions we face today. Because our children have not been taught patriotism (it is out of favor right now and referred to as ‘gringoism’), they lack pride in themselves and in their country. When everyone gets a trophy, we have no one to celebrate. When everyone gets a trophy, no one is exceptional. It is time to start recognizing those who are worthy of trophies and letting those who don’t earn them at first to keep trying until they do. American History should be ‘warts and all,’ but it shouldn’t be all warts. The new APUSH curriculum is mostly warts.