Social Studies

Group Publishes ‘Open Letter’ Opposing AP History Framework

By Jessica Brown — June 05, 2015 2 min read
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The latest opposition to the overhaul of the Advanced Placement U.S. History curriculum framework came this week by way of an open letter published by the National Association of Scholars.

The letter, which outlined concerns with the framework, has 55 signatures so far, including several university professors.

It opens like this:

The teaching of American history in our schools faces a grave new risk, from an unexpected source. Half a million students each year take the Advanced Placement (AP) exam in U.S. History. The framework for that exam has been dramatically changed, in ways certain to have negative consequences."

The letter states that the new framework ignores American exceptionalism and gives a “misleading account of American history.”

The NAS describes itself as a national network of independent scholars which “upholds the standards of a liberal arts education that fosters intellectual freedom, searches for the truth, and promotes virtuous citizenship.” Its news release and web site specify that NAS didn’t author or sign the letter, though several of its past and present leaders did.

“The National Association of Scholars is pleased to lend a hand to this independent initiative by many of America’s most distinguished historians,” said NAS president Peter Wood in a statement. “NAS first raised an alarm about APUSH in July 2014 and worked hard to bring to the attention of academic historians the problems with the College Board’s new standards. We are encouraged to see this deeply thoughtful and measured response from the people best able to evaluate the teaching of American history.”

Every year hundreds of thousands of high school students take the voluntary Advanced Placement U. S. history classes. Students can earn college credits by scoring well on the AP test.

The College Board, which oversees the AP program, revamped the course and the test this year. The rewrite sparked criticism and pushback from some national groups and in many states. Education Week‘s Liana Heitin wrote an in-depth piece on the controversy in March.

NAS says the new 132-page framework, “centralizes control, de-emphasizes content, and promotes a particular interpretation of American history” that “downplays American citizenship and American world leadership in favor of a more global and transnational perspective.”

It’s an argument that has been repeated among critics. They say the framework emphasizes negative aspects of the nation’s history.

The College Board stood by the new framework. Students took the new tests last month. The College Board did, however, accept public feedback earlier this year and may make edits to the framework this summer. That, NAS says, is why it’s important to keep the issue on the front burner.

“A formal education in American history serves young people best by equipping them for a life of deep and consequential membership in their own society,” states the letter. “The College Board’s 2014 framework sadly neglects this essential civic purpose of education in history. We can, and must, do better.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.