Open Letter to Texas Board of Education on College Board’s New History Framework

Peter Wood

Ms. Barbara Cargill

Chairman

The Texas Board of Education

 

Dear Chairman Cargill,

We, the signatories of this rejoinder, have been among the leading critics of the redesigned Advanced Placement United States History (APUSH) standards issued by the College Board in October 2012. Our substantive criticisms of the new APUSH Framework are a matter of record. We have come together to issue this statement out of concern that the College Board has issued a misleading and inadequate response to those criticisms, apparently in an effort to forestall corrective action by the Texas State Board of Education.

Our criticisms have covered nine main points: (1) The new APUSH attempts to impose national standards that will inevitably circumvent state standards and local control. (2) It is a detailed curriculum deceptively put forward as a mere framework. (3) It is ideologically slanted in favor of progressive interpretations of American history. (4) It gives short shrift to or omits important topics. (5) It purports to train students to be “apprentice historians” without laying a solid foundation in historical knowledge. (6) Its emphasis on documentary sources lacks many seminal documents. (7) It falsely presents itself as flexible for teachers.  (8) It fails to provide teachers with adequate preparation materials. (9) It was written and reviewed by committees dominated by individuals hostile to traditional American history and fails to gives serious attention to American exceptionalism.

Vice President Packer’s letter to the Texas Board of Education is a diversion from and not a response to our criticisms. Most importantly, our first point still stands: the College Board has set itself up as an unaccountable national school board. The “framework” embodies this.

Mr. Packer’s answer is that after months of ignoring critics, the College Board will now welcome “feedback.” Such an approach just entrenches the mistaken ideas that we need national standards and that the College Board can be relied on to tell us what they should be. Who gave the College Board this authority?

If the College Board may once have deserved that trust, it no longer does.  In promulgating this new Framework, it has shown ideological partisanship and bias.  It has also cast off its traditional deference to teachers, states, and school districts, and replaced it with a College-Board-knows-best attitude.  Its willingness to consider “feedback” falls far short of respecting the intelligence and autonomy of the states and the schools. The College Board offers that concession because it now sees itself faced with public resistance to its partisan version of history.  Will the “feedback” it receives matter when the heat is off?  Does anyone really believe that writing and submitting comments to the same committee that wrote the standards will have any effect whatsoever?

We do not find this offer timely or likely to lead to the substantial changes that are needed.

The new APUSH is in large measure a stealth attempt to impose a radical rejectionist view of America’s traditional claim to be a nation founded on an exceptional commitment to freedom and equality. Nibbling around the edges of this radical vision by allowing teachers to add a few themes of their own will not change its character. Mr. Packer is asking Texas to shelve these worries so that the College Board can institutionalize its program and get on with the work of encouraging textbooks and supplementary materials and teacher training that, once in place, will be almost impossible to amend or improve.

The College Board’s new commitment to “clarify” its instructions does nothing but repeat its talking point that the Framework is “flexible.” The old five-page APUSH Topic Outline that the “redesigned” Framework replaces was flexible. The new 52-page content outline is anything but flexible. It provides no opportunity to study the essentials of American political history as anything more than fleeting illustrations of minor themes.

Mr. Packer emphasizes that the Framework offers a perspective congenial to some college history teachers. Indeed it does, but Texas and other states are under no obligation to mold the teaching of American history to the views of radical historians who dislike the United States.  AP U.S. history will for many students be their last survey course in American history. In its current form, it will leave students with a permanently impoverished understanding of their nation’s history.

Telling high school students that they are free to “disagree” with the Framework after telling them that these ideas are common to college survey courses is meaningless. The Framework inculcates a settled view that deflects dissent from its premise that the history of America is a history of crime and injustice perpetrated by the elites on everyone else.  Students, moreover, will clearly understand that the AP tests will incorporate the same biases.

The Texas State Board of Education may be the nation’s last best chance to block the College Board’s power grab. We urge you not to give in to the College Board’s efforts at misdirection and camouflage. Its promises of welcoming feedback and ensuring fairness through lengthy public review are a stall.  The constitutional principle whereby states are granted control of America’s educational system is thoroughly at odds with the College Board’s efforts to nationalize the curriculum.

To accept the new Framework is to grant legitimacy to an illegitimate enterprise.   We urge the Texas State Board of Education to stand fast against the nationalization of American education, and stand in favor of our country’s deep tradition of local control of the schools.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Peter Wood, President, National Association of Scholars

Stanley Kurtz, Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center

Jane Robbins, Senior Fellow, American Principles Project

Emmett McGroarty, Executive Director, American Principles Project Education

Larry Krieger, Retired AP Teacher and Author

Ronald Radosh, Adjunct Fellow, The Hudson Institute, Prof. Emeritus of History, The City University of New York

Sandra Stotsky, Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas
 

Additional signatories:

Anders Lewis, Art Department Chair, Advanced Math and Science Academy Charter School


This letter originally appeared on Breitbart.com on September 11, 2014.

 

Image: Public Domain

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