A group of misguided Oklahoma lawmakers is out to whitewash Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. History courses – and if they succeed the state’s students will pay the price.
In case you’re not familiar with AP classes, they are college-style courses offered at both public and private high schools. Students planning to attend college normally take them in order to prove that they are prepared to handle upper-level academics. Many universities will even give credit toward a degree for students who do well in AP courses.
But here’s what’s really important about these classes: They are basically required of any student who hopes to gain entrance to a selective university (after all, Ivy League schools are now accepting fewer than 10 percent of applicants) and even many top-flight public institutions.
But it seems a group of Oklahoma state representatives either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about any of this. This week, the House Common Education Committee voted 11-4 along party lines to approve a measure that would force the state Board of Education to scrutinize the AP U.S. History curriculum and would ban state funds from being used for those courses.
The measure, HB 1380, was introduced by Rep. Dan Fisher (R-Yukon). Although it only addresses history classes, it could be extended to other AP courses if it passes. Fisher claims this particular bill is necessary because the current curriculum emphasizes “what is bad about America.”
The Tulsa World, which reported the story, didn’t offer any examples of what Fisher believes the AP course gets wrong about America. But a quick look at the curriculum reveals a few things that Fisher and his allies might not like.
For example, the course guidelines state that: “European exploration and conquest were fueled by a desire for new sources of wealth, increased power and status, and converts to Christianity.”
The guidelines also point out that the Founding Fathers did the country no favors by declining to deal with the issue of slavery.
“The constitutional framers postponed a solution to the problems of slavery and the slave trade, setting the stage for recurring conflicts over these issues in later years,” it reads.
The history curriculum even brings up more recent painful subjects, such as the Vietnam War and notes the widespread opposition to this conflict.
“Although the Korean conflict produced some minor domestic opposition,” reads the curriculum, “the Vietnam War saw the rise of sizable, passionate, and sometimes violent antiwar protests that became more numerous as the war escalated.”
All of those things are true. Even though they are unpleasant, they are facts, which Fisher and his Religious Right pals have a habit of ignoring.
The World said Fisher is an active member of an organization called the Black Robe Regiment, which is an entity inspired by a fake piece of history beloved by the Religious Right. The group describes itself as “a resource and networking entity where church leaders and laypeople can network and educate themselves as to our biblical responsibility to stand up for our Lord and Savior and to protect the freedoms and liberties granted to a moral people in the divinely inspired US Constitution.”
The regiment’s basis is pretty flimsy. Its members believe a colonial-era Lutheran pastor named Peter Muhlenberg stunned his Virginia congregation on Jan. 21, 1776 by announcing that his sermon that day would be his last. At the end of the address, he threw back his black clerical robe to expose a military uniform and announced he was off to fight for American independence. Moved by his oratory, 300 men signed up on the spot to join him.
But the earliest account of this story dates to 1849, so it probably never happened. Sadly that hasn’t stopped Religious Right activists like Fisher – and pseudo-historian David Barton – from buying into it.
Fisher can believe whatever he wants about history, but he has no right to force those bogus theories on every student in the state of Oklahoma. Why he thinks it’s impossible to be both patriotic and aware of America’s mistakes is hard to say, but the real reason he wants to boot the AP U.S. History curriculum is likely rooted in a desire to recast America as an officially “Christian nation.”
If Fisher gets his way, Oklahoma’s students will suffer. Should all AP classes be banned from public schools, those students will be at an extreme disadvantage when it comes time to apply for college. They will have virtually no chance of gaining entrance to any top schools.
The solution here is for parents to speak up. Students should not have to take a hit because delusional lawmakers can’t stomach the idea that aspects of U.S. history are unpleasant. So, Sooner State parents, if you want your children to remain competitive in the college admission game, tell Fisher and his allies to back off now.