Criticism leads to revision of AP History Exam

Criticism leads to revision of AP History Exam August 11, 2015

The last version of the Advanced Placement History exam, which allows high schoolers to test out of college courses–as well as the material required to prepare for it–bought into the leftist revisionist history movement, portraying American history mainly in terms of how oppressive it was.  (See this and this.)

Conservative parents and academics pushed back.  And now they have won a rare victory, with the College Board revising the exam to eliminate bias and to include more of the good things about America.  Some critics are pleased with the revision, while others don’t think it goes far enough.  But still. . . .

From Zoe Schlanger, Revised AP U.S. History Standards Will Emphasize American Exceptionalism, Newsweek:

The company behind Advanced Placement courses for U.S. high school students will release a revision to the standards for AP U.S. history on Thursday morning, after significant pushback from conservatives who claimed the redesigned course framework, released last year, painted American history in too negative a light.

The new framework significantly pares down last year’s framework, simplifying and condensing the course’s Thematic Learning Objectives from 50 to 19, according to an official at the College Board, the nonprofit organization that administers AP exams. In the process, a new section on the concept of “American exceptionalism” has been added. Some names that were omitted from last year’s framework, such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and John Adams, have been added—a key sticking point for critics of the prior document, who objected to Founding Fathers being omitted and negative aspects in American history being more emphasized, they claimed, than positive periods. Ben Carson, a GOP presidential candidate, said the curriculum was so anti-American that students who complete it would be “ready to sign up for ISIS.”

The revised framework will be effective immediately, and doesn’t require a change in any textbooks, according to the College Board. High school classes in many parts of the country begin in three weeks. Teachers Newsweek spoke with say that AP tests are typically written a year in advance, and said they expected the test will be reviewed in light of the changes. According to College Board, however, the test has not yet been written. . . .

The College Board official did confirm that “American exceptionalism” was added to the new document. The official said that the phase didn’t appear in the 2014 edition because the organization assumed it wasn’t something it needed to spell out as part of what would be taught in an American history course.

In other areas, language was changed or eliminated. “If there were places where we felt like the language of the framework seemed to unintentionally indicate some kind of a bias we tried to eliminate that. There were places where some critics…felt like the way things were phrased was anti-American. It didn’t make any sense to me. But if it felt like the way things were phrased indicated any kind of a bias or slant, we tried to neutralize that bias.”

Hastings says that the changes were for the sake of removing some value judgments from the framework, and letting facts speak for themselves.

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