History on the cutting board

Criticisms and attacks on AP U.S. History courses are not the result of ignorance but something bigger (Illustration by Anibal Santos)

Criticisms and attacks on AP U.S. History courses are not the result of ignorance but something bigger (Illustration by Anibal Santos)

Advanced Placement classes have long been considered one of the best tools for students to get an edge when going into college. Though they don’t immediately spring to mind as a source of strife, they’ve become an unexpected battlefield that began with changes to AP U.S. History courses by the College Board.

The changes were made in an attempt to present a more balanced history of America. In addition to placing a greater emphasis on important American documents, such as the Bill of Rights, the course also focuses more on the challenges numerous ethnic groups have had to face.

Yet, as Education Week reports, the supposedly good intentioned changes have not been warmly accepted. Opponents, mainly of a very conservative mindset, claim that the new changes are anti-American and aim to only teach students what’s wrong with America.

Politicians of the same mindset have taken aim at the courses too. Lawmakers, namely in Georgia, Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma, have pushed back at the changes. Oklahoma passed a bill last month to virtually ban the courses reports Think Progress.

All these attacks are unfounded, according to the Hechinger Report. They conclude that the new changes aren’t anti-American. The new coursework is fairly solid and improved.

Such points have been ignored by opponents and the fight over the courses looks to continue indefinitely. This isn’t due to ignorance but is totally deliberate. It’s the latest chapter in the war to control history. It’s being fought between those who wish to preserve it and those who wish to manipulate it for their own ends.

History doesn’t just make for good conversation: it’s a tool  in bettering ourselves and for making a better tomorrow. Philosopher George Santayana famously wrote “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

To control history is to control the future. Just as it can be a tool for great improvement it can also be used as a weapon to cripple the intelligence of others. Allowing people to better understand the past the way the AP courses are teaching them will result in many people having less influence over the mindsets of others.

Not even the supposed good guys in this fight are without faults themselves. In the same report by the Hechinger Report, the College Board still has not mentioned any notable people such as James Madison and George Washington Carver in the tests. The coursework still has flaws and students are not getting as good of a history lesson as they should.

History not only needs to be defended but also needs to be taught well. The conflict over the teaching of history in AP courses is a reminder to do both. If not, we are destined for a bleak future.