Like most right wingers, Ben Carson bristles at any criticism of the United States and jumps immediately to “you must hate America” any time such criticisms are made. At a meeting of Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy last week, he claimed that the AP history course would make kids want to join ISIS.
And we need to look at our history, we need to understand our history. You know, I am a little shocked, quite frankly, looking at the AP course in American history that’s being taught in high schools across our country right now. There’s only two paragraphs in there about George Washington. George Washington, believe it or not. Little or nothing about Dr. Martin Luther King. A whole section on slavery and how evil we are. A whole section on Japanese internment camps and how we slaughtered millions of Japanese with our bombs. A whole section on how we wiped out American Indians with no mercy. I mean, I think most people, when they finished that course, they’d be ready to go sign up for ISIS.
A whole section on slavery in a course on American history? That’s outrageous! I mean, it was only the single most dominant issue in American politics for most of the first century of the nation’s existence and it only caused the bloodiest and most nation-changing conflict in our history. Why on earth would they devote a whole “section” (whatever that might mean) to that?
But it’s difficult to even know what he is referring to here when he says “whole section.” There is not a single textbook used nationally for AP American History classes, there are several different ones. There is a new exam and framework that was rolled out this fall at the beginning of the new school year, but I have no idea what he means by a “whole section.” The framework divides American history up into nine chronological periods. Within each of those periods, there are “key concepts” to be studied, each of which has several subsections. But by any definition, there does not appear to be any “whole section” on the Japanese internment camps. In fact, it is only one of many thing listed in one subsection of one key concept of one chronological period:
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.
It isn’t even a whole subsection of a subsection of a subsection. And notice that at no point in this diatribe does he question the accuracy of what is taught. It is an undeniable part of American history that the settlers here did import slaves, they did slaughter Native Americans in massive numbers. And we did drop an atomic bomb on Japan, the only nation ever to do so. I don’t know how one could possibly teach American history without talking about those things.
But I don’t think Carson or his target audience cares about what is true, they care only about maintaining their narrative in spite of the evidence. And they care about scoring cheap political points with ignorant nationalists who prefer a sanitized version of history to an accurate one.