The war on high-school history classes is a whole new level of dumb

tags: Colorado, APUSH

Jeb Lund is the founder of Mr Destructo and a contributing editor to Sports on Earth. He wrote the 'America's Screaming Conscience' column for Gawker, and his writing has appeared at the Awl, the Classical, Deadspin, Esquire, GQ, the New Republic, SBNation and Vice.

This year, in Advanced Placement American History courses all across the nation, students will learn details about America that make it look bad. This is something that many people in academia or the rest of the world simply call “history”. The Republican National Committee calls the class a “radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects”. Which, once you translate that back out of hysterical conservative Victimology, is still just history.

History as text is easy; you can just rewrite it to fit any screwheaded agenda. History as an applied understanding presents a bit more of a problem. Look at Jefferson County, Colorado, where a newly conservative school board instituted a review to ensure that the AP US curriculum will “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free-market system”. This is fine on the page, but students in Jefferson County have taken to picketing the school board. Because that’s how losing our values starts. You make every kid take an end-of-year test in a little book, and then look what happens. You know who else liked little books? That’s right.

How stupid ideology-by-selective-bibliography seems to you depends on who you are.

That it’s stupid on its face is indisputable. Part of the hue and cry from folks at places like the National Review – where America is the strongest nation on Earth yet always one public library book away from total collapse – stems from the AP US History lesson plans apparently failing to mention founding-father types enough. The College Board issued a letter defending the curriculum, explaining that the course offers a college-level curriculum meant to provide context of historical movements and forces by expanding on students’ existing knowledge. (You can read a sample here.) In short, kids aren’t prohibited from knowing about Thomas Jefferson; that they’re taking the course means they should know enough about him already to integrate that understanding within, say, an examination of how the sort of decentralized, constitutional Republican ideal of governance gets hypocritically thrown out the window the moment power is achieved and you can buy Louisiana, have your lackeys try to impeach an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, suspend habeas corpus and throw Americans in camps for violating your embargo.

But bowdlerizing less telegenic parts of the syllabus feels a lot more dumb if you already know history, because this move by the Jefferson County school board doesn’t even have the decency to be a novel form of dumb. It’s a 130-year-old tradition of dumb whose mechanisms somehow manage to get dumber with each passing decade...

Read entire article at The Guardian

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