Thursday, February 19, 2015

Oklahoma denounces AP U.S. History Test's "unpatriotic" Account of History

This week, the Oklahoma legislature approved a bill that subsequently ends funding for the AP U.S. History course. While the initial bill banned the course completely, after a wake of disapproval from the country, Rep. Dan Fisher plans to submit a new bill simply proposing a review of the course. Proponents of this bill and those who spearheaded the initial campaign believe that the class promotes the history of the United States as a “negative” view of “oppressors and exploiters,” only focusing on what is bad about America. Many are frustrated that the AP U.S. History course is liberally focused and centers on the “blemishes” of history. Responding to this claim, one Washington Post article argues that the course should teach controversy instead of deleting critical parts of history. To assert that the class is not positive enough is comparable to taking one side of a very complex argument; people in history have made mistakes and others have had great victories, why should only one half of these lessons be taught to the next generation?

Another Washington Post article brings up the argument certain legislators have made about the “tyrannical” power of the federal government over the states, but AP and IB tests are managed by independent nonprofits and not overseen by the federal government. Eliminating this course will prevent students from obtaining college credits received from scoring well on this test, which can negatively impact the future of many. Legislators cite the actual class as the only factor or the issue, but fail to note the impact on the students; while they mention the problems with the course as a bad picture of the country, the argument does not include how this change will affect the students for their futures.

Do you believe that only the state of Oklahoma should be involved in the resolution of this controversy, or think that the public should be included in this impactful decision, as it is run by an independent company and not the government? 

As many of us took this course last year, do you believe the claims made that the test and course are too negative and need to be changed, or should the class/test remain intact as is? Any alternative suggestions?


ElizabethZhou7 said...

I believe that the public should be included in this decision as whatever Oklahoma chooses to do, it will inevitably affect everyone. Banning the AP U.S. History course in only one state can be seen as unfair, as it does not give every student a chance to take the course and receive college credit for it. Furthermore, it prevents students from learning about how the United States developed to what it is today; how can we be patriotic when we don't even know how our nation came to be?

While opponents claim the course promotes a "negative" image of the history of the United States, I think the course should remain as history is history. We can't change it, and there's no point in denying what our nation has done in the past. The reason we learn history is to learn from our mistakes, and use that knowledge to prevent similar mistakes in the future. There is no country that doesn't have a negative past, as in my opinion, it is because of those terrible times that nations have changed and improved. Furthermore, we should be proud of where we've come from rather than ashamed. To me, being patriotic means accepting and the flaws of your country and using that knowledge to find ways to make your country better.

Elena E said...

Allow me to recall a quote from a book most of us are very familiar with:
"If all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth. 'Who controls the past," ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'"

Although our society is far from the dystopia Orwell portrays, such views of learning about history do scare me just a little bit. I believe that not only should College Board listen to the opinion of the public (consumers), and keep the course without any modification. The course deals with many topics seemingly un-patriotic because history is not always cheerful and honorable. If we do not learn about events of the past, how can we learn to prevent such mistakes in the future? Furthermore, patriotism, in my humble opinion, does not come from ignorant masses screaming "'Murica!" with very limited knowledge of history to back them up. True patriotism is seeing your country, and despite flaws, mistakes, and horrors that have happened through history, still believing in its principles and still believing in growth towards a better future.
We all learn about great victories through all our years in school. In elementary school, we are taught about great victories of history made by the United States. In middle school, we learn about the great victories the United States made on a global scale. But only in high school, (at least from my experience), do we swim to the deep end of the pool, and examine controversial topics. The AP U.S. History covers what students have NOT learned about: the not-so-bright-and-happy sides of history. We already have 10 years of schooling about the good. The AP U.S. History course is the only course for many students that actually goes into the bad and ugly. If we are already expected to see an imbalanced history, removing the teaching of "blemishes" will cause students to view history in ONLY a positive light. And where is the line between such education and propaganda? Such "patriotic" teachings of history significantly blur it.
Also, as an AP class, the course gives students the opportunity to get college credit in high school. Such a way of doing so is cheaper and faster. Many students and their families already find themselves in a situation where it is difficult to pay for college. Taking out an AP class makes it that much harder, financially speaking. Considering some schools may not have the funding to offer that many AP courses, many students may REALLY value the AP US History course, and have big incentives to take and pass the test. It is at Aragon, that we are lucky to have a huge selection of AP classes to choose from. Other schools are not so privileged to have such variety. Without the extra buffer for college paying, many students will see a not insignificant barrier in obtaining a higher education.
I believe this bill should be repealed, and the idea of it should not be brought up again. Clearly, it is important to teach ALL aspects of history, and going deep into them like the AP course does. Though we are by no means living in a totalitarian state, this whole incident does give off a "let's try to control the masses" kind of vibe. Many students valued the AP US History course, and not allowing them to successfully take the test would put hinder their future significantly, funding wise.

Angelia Fontanos said...

I think that the people of Oklahoma, not its government, should get the ultimate say in whether or not the state continues to fund the AP U.S. History course. As Lindsay mentioned, the College Board is a nonprofit, so I don't think the government should be able to control its actions like that.

Yes, the AP U.S. History course does talk about some bad parts of history, but those bad parts are also some of the most important moments in American history. That's why those topics are included, so we as students can reflect on our nation's past and learn to make the right decisions today. I remember when I learned about US history in fifth and eighth grade, I didn't really learn too much about the bad moments of our history. We briefly mentioned them, and just moved on. The great thing about AP U.S. History is that we dig deeper into those ugly moments,creating an actual understanding instead of just a brief acknowledgement. Plus, every nation had its share of bad moments, so why should the US be excluded from it? Only teaching students the positive things about American history will turn those kids into ignorant people.

Similar to what Elizabeth and Elena said, patriotism is not about blindly supporting your country. Even if you strongly love your country, you need to be able to point out its flaws and bad decisions, in order to help it "mature." I guess it's like parenting in a way?