Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Advanced Placement U.S. History argument is full of dumb people


Ben Carson is the Islamic State personified. 
Take a fundamentalist and have him use vindictive rhetoric to attempt to eviscerate everything his puny little mind doesn’t understand.  Then have him march across the country and preach hatred for intelligence.  Yep, sounds like a clear ISIS/Carson standard for me.
Benji is angry because of the new Advanced Placement United States History framework.  Last year the College Board changed up outline curriculum requirements to become more thematic while attempting to create questions that were more within the realm of critical thinking.  Carson is fairly upset about that.
“There’s only two paragraphs in there about George Washington. George Washington, believe it or not. Little or nothing about Martin Luther King.”
Carson is correct in the dumbest possible way.  Washington is literally hardly mentioned at all, and the fact that he isn’t is not unusual in an AP framework.  In fact, because he is mentioned at all is a sign that he’s actually really important (or at least his Farewell Address is important).  No, instead of a huge list of names/dates/events, you have things like this:
ID-1:
Analyze how competing conceptions of national identity were expressed in the development of political institutions and cultural values from the late colonial through the antebellum periods.
Hey look, no names.  Well actually the teacher will have to address a whole lot of names because it is literally impossible to deal with that learning objectives without lots of information on the Founding Fathers and the Framers.  Any good teacher will nail that and any bad teacher that doesn’t should be fired anyway. 
And what about Doctor King?  Nope, Carson is idiotically correct here too.  The name is absent.  Instead, you have this:
ID-8:
Explain how civil rights activism in the 20th century affected the growth of African American and other identity-based political and social movements.
POL-5:
Analyze how arguments over the meaning and interpretation of the Constitution have affected U.S. politics since 1787.
How is Martin Luther King not a part of those learning objectives?  He is!  But there seems to be a radical fringe of the population that wants teachers to either be on leashes or they have the image of teachers that is incredibly demeaning. 

Then there’s Julie Williams, member of the Jefferson County School Board.  I’m sure that you have heard about the Denver area’s Board of Education taking the torch to the APUSH test.  What about it Julie?
“APUSH is new. This is important to state because some may not know it is NEW. It came into existence quite recently under dubious and secretive circumstances…”
The redevelopment of the APUSH standards has been common knowledge of most teachers for, I don’t know, about two or three years.  In fact, I would like to take you back to the Advanced Placement Annual Conference in San Francisco in July 2011.  Scroll down to the bottom of the post.  Notice the afternoon session.  Previewing the Revised APUSH Course.  For the record anyone that paid the fee could attend that conference and I signed no paper that revoked my citizenship if I gave up APUSH secrets.  In fact, we were asked to promote it. 
So back to Julie…
  “…instructional materials should present the most current factual information accurately and objectively. Theories should be distinguished from fact. Materials should promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights. Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law. Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage.”
Clearly Julie did not get the full scoop on the history of the United States.  Something is weirdly off when someone manages to put “materials should present the most current factual information accurately” and “materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage” in the same paragraph.  It hardly promotes the best and brightest thinkers.  What Julie and Ben both want to do is create Storm Troopers.  Who needs the next generation of Patrick Henrys when you can have armored simpletons running around checking on hull popping noises and smacking their helmets on bulkheads.   
At it’s core this isn’t about curriculum, it’s about teachers.  Julie and Ben fear that bad teachers can’t understand the outline and therefore want to define it for them because the Union won’t allow them to be fired.  Sort of, in a marginal sense, ok (hey thanks unions).  But more so Ben and Julie really fear good teachers.  Those that tell the whole story without censoring the mistakes.  Those that consider the United States exceptional (I do) and yet remind students that the whole democratic experiment has things like the Trail of Tears, Japanese Internment, Slavery, Women’s Rights, Jim Crow, and the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Good for the Jefferson County students, screw you Ben Carson, and school boards all across the land might want to focus on that really matter.
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