Op-Ed: Why My Daughter Hates (Whitewashed) AP HistoryBreaking News
tags: teaching history, secondary education, AP US History
My daughter hates her AP U.S. history class. She hates studying for the Advanced Placement exams in early May. That’s not because she’s a bad student. It’s because she’s a good student. She just read a book about the War of the Roses on her own time; James Baldwin, who has a lot to say about America’s racist history, is one of her favorite writers. As a result, she recognizes bland, boring boosterish bilge when it is dumped on her.
With all the fuss Republicans have been making about the need for more patriotism in the classroom, you might believe that U.S. high school history courses today are bastions of antiracism that dwell only on America’s flaws. But unfortunately, my daughter’s history course is as white, and as whitewashed, as Donald Trump could ever hope.
When I was in high school my AP history course was based on Thomas Bailey’s “The American Pageant,” a doorstopper originally written in the 1950s whose purple prose seemed calculated to distract from the vast swaths of the U.S. story it ignored or obscured. Bailey did not teach me, for example, that Christopher Columbus cut off the hands of Hispaniola’s Taino people when they did not bring him enough gold.
That was 30 years ago. I hoped that my daughter’s distance-learning high school course, administered through a leading university, would be better.
My heart sank when I found out she was reading “The American Pageant,” now with new writers and in its 17th edition (though my daughter used the 16th). It’s still a doorstopper and, my daughter informs me, still teaching Black history, Indigenous history, labor history and a lot more very, very badly.
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