Fifty-five top historians have signed an open letter criticizing the College Board’s revamp of its Advanced Placement U.S. history curriculum, in which half a million of the nation’s brightest students enroll each year. It is the final U.S. history class many ever take.
The National Association of Scholars, which coordinated the letter, notes: “Lynne Cheney, Bruce Cole, Patrick J. Deneen, Robert George, Leon Kass, Victor Davis Hanson, and Harvey Mansfield signed the letter, among several dozen other prominent scholars.” Their letter says:
The College Board’s 2014 Advanced Placement Examination shortchanges students by imposing on them an arid, fragmentary, and misleading account of American history. We favor instead a robust, vivid, and content-rich account of our unfolding national drama, warts and all, a history that is alert to all the ways we have disagreed and fallen short of our ideals, while emphasizing the ways that we remain one nation with common ideals and a shared story.
The College Board has so far dismissed critics of its curricular rewrite as nitpicking, right-wing rubes. It turns out serious, credible scholars agree with the critics. This means people like Stanford University scholar Peter Berkowitz are right to forecast trouble for America if College Board retains its curricular monopoly over high-school classes that can lead to college credit. He writes:
By obscuring this nation’s founding principles and promise, the College Board’s U.S. history guidelines will erode the next generation’s disposition to preserve what is best in the American political tradition. It will also weaken students’ ability to improve our laws and political institutions in light of America’s constitutional commitment to limited government, individual liberty, and equality under law.
Academic integrity would require College Board to improve and un-bias its rewrite. A central reason it would not is that College Board is a monopoly provider locked into many American schools by exclusive contracts with states and schools. So it’s not susceptible to market pressure. It’s susceptible to and can itself wield political pressure. The best way to ensure private entities like College Board cannot dictate to local schools the opportunities they can offer students is for at least one other competitor to arise and challenge College Board with better products.
SOURCES: National Association of Scholars, RealClearPolitics.com
This article originally appearred in School Reform News.