New York (June 3, 2015)—A group of 55 scholars yesterday released an open letter opposing revisions to the Advanced Placement United States History (APUSH) course. The new framework ignores American exceptionalism, the letter says.
American history as taught in the new APUSH course, according to the letter, focuses on “the conflict between social groups,” and pays little attention to “sources of national unity and cohesion.”
Top students take the APUSH course in high school, and many receive college credit when they earn qualifying scores on the corresponding exam. The letter says that for these students, “the AP test effectively has taken the place of the formerly required U.S. history survey course in colleges and universities, making its structure and contents a matter of even greater importance from the standpoint of civic education.”
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.
The National Association of Scholars (NAS) published it and is providing a platform on its website for written critiques of the APUSH standards. NAS did not sign the letter, but several of its past and present leaders did, including NAS founder Stephen H. Balch, chairman Herb London, board member Sandra Stotsky, and NAS report Recasting History author Richard Fonte.
The letter calls for teaching of U.S. history that covers the full spectrum of its past and gives teachers freedom to choose what to emphasize. The letter concludes:
A formal education in American history serves young people best by equipping them for a life of deep and consequential membership in their own society. The College Board’s 2014 framework sadly neglects this essential civic purpose of education in history. We can, and must, do better.
NAS president Peter Wood said, “The National Association of Scholars is pleased to lend a hand to this independent initiative by many of America’s most distinguished historians. NAS first raised an alarm about APUSH in July 2014 and worked hard to bring to the attention of academic historians the problems with the College Board’s new standards. We are encouraged to see this deeply thoughtful and measured response from the people best able to evaluate the teaching of American history.”
Download the letter (pdf): /images/documents/Historians_Statement.pdf
The National Association of Scholars is a network of scholars and citizens united by a commitment to academic freedom, disinterested scholarship, and excellence in American higher education. NAS upholds the standards of a liberal arts education that fosters intellectual freedom, searches for the truth, and promotes virtuous citizenship.
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Image: Public Domain