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On new AP US History curriculum, a pushback

The College Board created the new framework in response to teacher concerns that the old curriculum didn’t allow for in-depth discussion. But critics take issue with the revamped course’s content and the private organization’s authority over state education.

“The College Board has been a monopoly for 100 years,” said Jane Robbins, senior fellow at the American Principles Project. “Why do we have to cower before the College Board because they’re there and have an office in New York?”

According to the College Board, the newly designed AP U.S. History course will emphasize analysis and interpretation of primary sources and legal documents.

“We believe that it strikes a careful balance between teaching factual knowledge and critical analysis,” wrote the authors of the AP U.S. History curriculum in an open letter addressing the claims against them.

But the Republican National Committee said the framework devalues integral information.

“It reflects a radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history, while omitting or minimizing positive aspects,” wrote the RNC in an Aug. 8 resolution.

Robbins said the conversation has put pressure on College Board to communicate with critics.

The N.C. State Board of Education has not discussed a similar proposal.

“As recently as the very beginning of this month, our board chairman said that the board was not considering taking any action,” said Sara Clark, spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, said the College Board transitioned from a view of American exceptionalism to one embracing more diverse perspectives.

“The history of America is told largely through the lens of the injustices perpetrated on various people at various times by the American elite: generally rich white men,” he said.

Wood said the new AP U.S. History framework puts little emphasis on important epic history, diminishing it so that a student could walk away from the course with little knowledge of American history.

The old curriculum allowed for greater teacher flexibility and unique teaching methods, he said, though the RNC’s resolution is not the solution.

“Where there are contending interpretations, (we should) give students access to the facts, the documents and broader narratives and allow students to make up their own minds,” Wood said.

Harry Watson, a history professor at UNC, said facts are important, but critical thinking is fundamental in college level courses.

Watson said that, ultimately, the RNC’s critique of the curriculum is uninformed.

“You can’t bake a cake without ingredients, and you can’t leave out people and events from a history class any more than you can leave out sugar and flour from a cake,” he said.

Myra Waheed, a UNC freshman, said the old framework was narrow in its perspective.

“So we didn’t get much of an international look,” she said. “I don’t think it was negative, I just think it was very present and very domestic.”

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