If you were a high school student in Alabama, you may recall learning about how the Crusades, the Renaissance, and the Protestant Reformation influenced Europeans to begin exploring and colonizing the New World. You may also recall learning about the geography and economies of the Southern, Middle Atlantic, and New England colonies.
This is not what Alabama students taking Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. History will learn when schools open this year. Instead, they will begin their courses by studying native populations in North America before Columbus. They will learn that Native Americans developed different but increasingly complex societies that were thriving, autonomous, and ecologically well-adjusted. The arrival of Spanish and Portuguese conquistadores permanently disrupted this idyllic existence. Once this baseline is established, students learn that, “Many Europeans developed a belief in white superiority to justify their subjugation of Africans and American Indians…”
This is not a hypothetical scenario. This material is taken from the “redesigned” AP U.S. History Framework issued by the College Board. (http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/ap/ap-course-exam-descriptions/ap-us-history-course-and-exam-description.pdf)
The new 98-page Framework replaces the traditional five-page topic outline that had been in effect for decades.
After introducing the Native Americans before the founding of Jamestown, the Framework turns to the founding of the 13 colonies. But the Framework does not call for students to learn about John Winthrop’s famous “City upon a Hill” sermon and the beginning of American exceptionalism. It does not mention Roger Williams and the beginning of religious toleration. And it does not mention Thomas Jefferson and the beginning of American representative democracy in the House of Burgesses.
Instead, the Framework focuses most of its attention on a negative view of colonial America in which our founders are portrayed as bigots who “developed a belief in white supremacy” that was in turn derived from “a strong belief in British racial and cultural superiority.” These beliefs then led to the creation of “a rigid racial hierarchy.”
The College Board’s redesigned Framework is totally inconsistent with the content and tone of Alabama’s Social Studies Course of Study approved by the State School Board. An analysis revealed 134 elements in Alabama’s Standards that are not specifically mentioned in the College Board Framework. In addition, there are 50 elements in the College Board Framework that are not part of the Alabama Standards.
I want to emphasize that this is not a partisan issue. Alabamians will be shocked to discover that the redesigned Framework omits the achievements of many great Americans including great presidents such as Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower and great civil rights leaders such as Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The citizens of Alabama cannot allow control of our curriculum standards to be usurped by the College Board. I urge you to read the new Framework for yourself, then call your elected public officials and appropriate school authorities and tell them what you think. And finally, I urge you to call the College Board at (212) 713-8000 and demand that it immediately withdraw the redesigned Framework and restore a balanced Topic Outline that respects state curriculum standards and gives students an accurate picture of our country’s past.”